Update as of 5:28 a.m. EST: The death toll from the stampede in Shanghai's Bund area has risen to 36, the Wall Street Journal reported. Another 47 people were injured in the stampede, the cause of which remains unclear. Most of the victims were young women, the report added.
“It was utter chaos. There were too many people in a small space,” Andrew Jordan Shainker, a 28-year-old American teacher in Shanghai, told the Journal.
A New Year's Eve stampede in Shanghai that left 35 people dead and 42 injured was sparked by a crowd surging toward fake money that had been thrown out of a building above the crowd, according to reports.
The stampede took place in Chen Yi Square, in the city's famous Bund district, which straddles one bank of the Hangpu river, facing the iconic Pudong business district, which is packed with towering, illuminated skyscrapers. One eyewitness, who gave only his last name, Wu, told Reuters that fake cash was thrown from a bar above the square, and claimed that the stampede was triggered by people rushing to pick up the bills.
Cui Tingting, 27, said that she picked up some of the currency but threw it away when she realized it was fake, according to The Guardian. “It’s too cruel. People in front of us had already fallen to the floor, and others were stepping all over them,” she said.
An eyewitness, known only as Zong, told the Shanghai Daily: “We were pushed forward by a huge crowd behind us. We didn’t want to move forward toward the riverfront area, but we had no choice. Suddenly a crowd from the front began to push us back. We fell down and we were among layers of people buried.
“I only managed to keep my head above the pile of bodies, and I began to feel numbness in my legs. Several minutes later, police pulled us off one another, one by one. It was so terrible. A friend of mine went missing.”
Photos shared on social media showed victims being given CPR treatment in the street. Chinese state-run media also reported the fake money as a possible cause of the stampede, but no official ruling on the cause has been made yet.
â€” People's Daily,China (@PDChina) December 31, 2014
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered the Shanghai city government to determine the cause of the fatal stampede as soon as possible, Chinese state TV reported. Earlier, Shanghai police posted on their official Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) page that some “tourists” had “fallen over” near the Bund, and urged people to leave the area.
Shanghai's traditional New Year's light show was canceled this year, due to concerns about overcrowding. In previous years, the event has attracted up to 300,000 people. The stampede took place in an area where crowds would traditionally gather to watch the light show, which is popular with foreign tourists.