Shanghai’s government announced Wednesday that it has fired four senior district officials and handed out disciplinary punishments to seven others for failing to prevent the New Year’s Eve stampede at the Bund, Shanghai's historic riverfront walk. The incident had claimed the lives of 36 people while 49 others were injured in the Chinese city.
Investigations conducted by Shanghai's municipal authorities showed that some officials were at an affluent dinner banquet on the night of the incident. Their absence, therefore, delayed the response to the incident. The investigation report blames 11 officials from Huangpu District for improper management of the site, congestion at the scene and failure to take sufficient precautionary measures, The Associated Press reported, citing Shanghai officials.
“It was lack of public security that caused heavy casualties and serious consequences,” Xinhua reported, citing an investigative report, adding: “Inadequate prevention and preparation for the mass activity and poor on-site management should be blamed.”
According to the investigation report, officials had not assessed the risk of the changes made to the New Year countdown venue, where a light show was canceled at the last minute. Officials also reportedly failed to publicize the changes on time that may have prevented the deadly stampede. The report further alleged that the security was insufficient as only about 500 police and urban management personnel were deployed at the location, Xinhua reported.
"The thinking of the Huangpu District government and related department heads was paralyzed, with a serious lack of understanding of guarding against public security risks," Xiong Xinguang, head of the municipal emergency committee and part of the investigation team, said in a news conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters, adding: "Preventative and response preparation was sorely lacking, early warnings on the night were weak, and the response measures were not suitable."
Zhou Wei, Communist Party chief of Huangpu District and Peng Song, the district chief, were among those fired, Bloomberg reported, citing Wang Yu, a member of the investigation team.
Relatives of the victims had earlier claimed that Beijing was reacting slowly to the incident, while also withholding crucial information and refraining the affected people from interacting with the media.
"At least someone has stepped up and taken responsibility. Now we'll see what happens about compensating the families," Wang Jianhua, whose sister was killed in the stampede, said, according to Reuters.