Shanghai families demand answers

Published: Friday 2nd January 2015 by The News Editor

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Families of 36 revellers killed in a new year stampede in Shanghai are demanding answers from authorities about how the disaster could happen.

Nearly 50 more people were injured when thousands who decided to ring in the new year on the city’s famed riverfront got caught up in the crush.

With authorities identifying 35 dead victims by name, hundreds of family members are mourning the dead, who were mostly young women.

On social media and TV airwaves, many Chinese were asking how such a tragedy could have happened in the heart of the country’s high-profile financial hub.

Shanghai is known for a better-oiled municipal government than most other Chinese cities, with its leaders supposedly savvier in managing traffic and crowds, but the tragedy has exposed gaping vulnerabilities in the city’s preparedness and emergency response system.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the stampede, but street vendors, residents, taxi drivers and other witnesses say the city failed to prepare for the massive turnout.

Officials may not have expected such large numbers in the riverfront area called the Bund after they cancelled a much-hyped midnight light show and hosted a toned-down version at another location.

Grieving family members and friends say they were kept in the dark about rescue efforts and post-mortem arrangements. They said they had yet to meet or talk with senior city officials. Today, many were forced inside a district government compound with reporters kept out.

During light shows in previous years, city and military police tightly controlled foot and car traffic on the riverfront, but on Wednesday night, the hundreds of thousands who showed up were allowed mostly to move around freely.

Wang Qiang, a police officer, told a news conference that there were no traffic controls on the Bund because there were no planned official activities, according to state media.

The police presence was thin at the scene, according to those present.

Published: Friday 2nd January 2015 by The News Editor

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