Thursday January 22, 2015
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A woman cries as she mourns her relative, the victim of a stampede during the new year celebrations on the bund, in Shanghai January 6, 2015. — Reuters picA woman cries as she mourns her relative, the victim of a stampede during the new year celebrations on the bund, in Shanghai January 6, 2015. — Reuters picSHANGHAI, Jan 22 — Four local officials in Shanghai have been sacked after 36 people died in a New Year’s Eve crush on the city’s famous waterfront, the city government said yesterday, as compensation was announced for victims’ families.

New Year revellers, many of them young women, were trampled after flocking to the historic strip known as the Bund, with severe overcrowding raising questions about why authorities failed to enforce stronger safety measures.

State media reported yesterday that local authorities had announced compensation of 800,000 yuan (RM465,638) for the families of each of the dead.

“The 49 injured people will receive different compensations in light of their injuries,” official news agency Xinhua added.

Shanghai’s vice mayor Zhou Bo told a news conference that the tragedy “should not have happened and could have been completely avoided”.

Four district officials in Huangpu, where the accident took place, had been relieved of their Communist Party and government posts, including the area’s party chief Zhou Wei and local government head Peng Song, Shanghai officials said. 

Authorities imposed lesser, administrative penalties on seven others, including district officials and Shanghai police, they added.

Zhou and Wei were among several officials who went to a high-class restaurant for a “midnight snack” shortly before the accident without paying for the meal, in violation of party rules, Shanghai’s corruption watchdog also said yesterday. 

Media reports of the meal sparked widespread outrage online. Officials had sushi and noodles washed down with Japanese sake for a bill of more than 2,700 yuan, but dined for free courtesy of a businessman, Shanghai’s discipline inspection commission said.

Officials laid the blame for the crush largely on Huangpu district, though they said other government departments shared responsibility for oversight. 

“Preventive preparations were lacking,” Xiong Xinguang, head of Shanghai’s emergency management office, told the news conference—the first open to foreign media since the tragedy.

“Site management was weak, improper response and handling triggered a stampede which caused major injuries and deaths.” 

He added: “The Huangpu district government and related departments have inescapable responsibility for this incident.”

Human wave

No higher-level officials have been punished so far, but there has been speculation that Shanghai party secretary Han Zheng and mayor Yang Xiong might be implicated.

Fan Ping, who lost her husband Du Shuanghua in the New Year’s Eve crush, said city-level officials should be held accountable.

“I think they are all responsible—this can be considered the responsibility of the city government. Now, let’s see the next step for how they handle it,” she told AFP.

The announcement of punishments followed the conclusion of an official report on the accident, based on an investigation carried out over three weeks by Shanghai authorities and invited experts.

The report, also released on Wednesday, described a chain of events in which district police and officials were aware of growing crowds but failed to act or communicate the risk to higher-level authorities.

“The constant flow of people up and down the stairs caused a deadlock, then a surging wave,” the report said, referring to a stairway connecting to an elevated promenade along the Bund.

“Pressure from the crowd going down increased, causing some at the bottom of the stairs to lose their balance and fall, leading to many people falling, overlapping, which caused the stampede.” — AFP

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