SHANGHAI, Jan 2 – China on Friday mourned the 36 dead from a New Year’s Eve crush on Shanghai’s famed waterfront, as the city government revealed the victims were mainly young women. The incident was Shanghai’s worst since a fire in a high-rise residential building killed 58 people in 2010 and tarnished the commercial hub’s international reputation.
Around 100 people gathered in front of a statue of Shanghai’s first Communist mayor Chen Yi near the accident scene, some laying flowers in a government-approved show of mourning. Relatives wailed uncontrollably at a funeral home where some of the bodies were taken, with one woman crumpling with despair almost immediately after coming out, family members holding her up.
One man from Jiangxi province said: “My son is in there, I can’t believe this happened.” The youngest of the 32 fatalities identified so far is a 12-year-old boy, Mao Yongjie. He became separated from his mother in the overwhelming flow of revellers, news magazine Caixin reported, and efforts by hospital staff to save his life failed. His mother spent New Year’s day crying until she passed out from exhaustion, Caixin added.
All but four of the dead on a list released by the city government on Friday were aged 25 or under, and 21 were female. The oldest fatality was 37. Shanghai residents were questioning why the city government did not control the crowds, though police said a “more than normal” 700-strong police force was present.
“The Shanghai government should take responsibility for the incident. Most of the young victims must be the only child of their families,” said taxi driver Xu Jianzhong. Under China’s strict birth control regulations most couples are restricted to a single child.
University student Chen Xiaohang placed white chrysanthemums at the memorial site in memory of the sister of a high-school classmate who died. “I feel very sad about this and I hope the government will offer better safety controls for events like this,” she told AFP.
Authorities at first removed flowers after the incident but later set up crowd barriers to allow them to be laid in a controlled area. On Thursday evening, mourners lit candles including an arrangement in the shape of a heart. Internet postings and media reports initially blamed US dollar-like notes – actually promotional items from M18, a glitzy Bund nightclub – thrown from a building for setting off a scramble and causing the carnage.
But police said the “money” throwing occurred 12 minutes after and 60 metres away from the crush in a plaza. “This happened after the stampede incident,” police said in a statement that cited surveillance video, adding it did not cause crowding pressure. The number of injured was raised by two to 49 on Friday, the Shanghai government said on a verified microblog account.