JNN 01 Jan 2015 Shanghai : A stampede killed at least 36 people during New Year’s Eve celebrations in Shanghai, authorities said, possibly caused by people rushing to pick up fake money thrown from a building overlooking the city’s famous Bund waterfront district.
The government in China’s gleaming business capital said large crowds started to stampede in Chen Yi Square on the Bund just before midnight, in the cosmopolitan city’s worst disaster since 58 died in an apartment building fire in 2010.
The trigger for the stampede has still to be confirmed, but state media and witnesses said the incident was at least partly caused
A man who brought one of the 47 injured to a local hospital for treatment said fake money had been thrown down from a bar above the street as part of the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
People rushed to pick up the money, triggering the stampede, said the man, who gave his family name as Wu.
Cui Tingting, 27, said she had picked up some of the bank notes but had thrown them away when she realized they were fake.
“It’s too cruel. People in front of us had already fallen to the floor, and others were stepping all over them,” she said.
State television cited others as saying the fake bills came fluttering down “like snow”.
Shanghai police said they were not yet able to confirm whether the fake money was the cause of the stampede, adding that a probe was ongoing and asking people be patient, according to state television.
The glass doors to the bar, whose name appeared on the fake bills, was locked on Thursday, though signs of the previous night’s party could be seen with debris strewn on the floor.
People inside the bar did not answer the door when a Reuters reporter knocked.
Another witness, who gave his family name as Wei, said there also had been a problem away from the area where the fake bills were thrown, with people trying to get on to a raised platform overlooking the river.
Xinhua news agency said that people had been trampled on after falling down on the steps up to the platform.
“We were caught in the middle and saw some girls falling while screaming. Then people started to fall down, row by row,” a witness surnamed Yin told Xinhua.
Some Chinese media outlets carried criticism of the authorities for lack of adequate policing and planning.
“It was chaos, and there were only one-third of the number of police there compared with previous years,” the Beijing News quoted one Shanghai resident as saying.
Foreign media were forbidden from attending a police press conference, underscoring government sensitivity about any critical coverage of disasters.
State media said many of the dead and injured were students, with 28 of the dead women.
Authorities had shown some concern about crowd control in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. They recently cancelled an annual 3D laser show on the Bund, which last year attracted as many as 300,000 people.
On New Year’s Eve, Beijing also cancelled a countdown event in the central business district, Chinese media said, due to police fears about overcrowding.
President Xi Jinping has asked the Shanghai government to get to the bottom of the incident as soon as possible, and ordered governments across the country to ensure a similar disaster could not happen again, state television said.
The Shanghai government said on its official microblog that an inquiry had begun, and that all other New Year events had been cancelled.
Photographs on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, showed densely packed crowds of revellers along the Bund where buildings from Shanghai’s pre-communist heyday face the Huangpu River and house upscale restaurants, bars, shops and hotels.
In 2004, 37 people died in a stampede in northern Beijing, on a bridge at a scenic spot, during the Lunar New Year holiday.
New Year Celebrated by Christians in Iran
As Christians around the world celebrate Christmas, the holiday season is also observed in Iran, a predominantly Muslim nation where Christians make up some 1% of the country’s approximate population of 77.5 million, the Al-Monitor said in an article.
Christmas trees decorated with red, green, and gold gift boxes placed behind shop windows or at the entrances of different shopping malls and hotels can be seen across Christian neighborhoods of Iran, it added.
According to the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), over 117,000 Christians reside in Iran, most of whom are Armenians who are followers of the Oriental Orthodox branch of Christianity. More than 46,000 members of this minority group live in Tehran. Assyrians, Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelical Christians make up the remainder of Iran’s Christian population.
Despite being a minority, Iran’s Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are recognized as established religious minorities and are represented in parliament, and enjoy freedom to practice their religions and perform their religious rituals.
“You cannot celebrate Christmas in any Islamic country the way we do in Iran,” Rafi Moradians, an Iranian Armenian in Tehran, told Al-Monitor. Referring to the community’s exclusive sport and cultural club, Rafi said, “Authorities do not impose any restrictions on us. We attend church services and there are also special celebrations at the Ararat Club.”
In recent years, municipal authorities have also put up banners celebrating the birth of Jesus on many main streets and at the St. Sarkis Armenian Church on Villa Avenue, where a service is held every year.
Unlike other countries in the region where public celebration of Christmas is limited to hotels frequented by foreigners, there is no such restriction in Tehran.
Ordinary Iranians are not alone in the holiday celebrations and in exchanging greetings at Christmas time. This year, President Hassan Rouhani sent season’s greetings to Pope Francis and world leaders. Through his Twitter account, Rouhani reached out to Christians around the globe, as well as those in Iran.
“May Jesus Christ, the prophet of peace and love, bless us all on this day. Wishing Merry #Christmas to those celebrating, esp #Iranian Christians,” he tweeted.
Also, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif used his 100th tweet to express hope for a more peaceful 2015.
The Twitter account belonging to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei also featured a series of messages on the occasion of Christmas. One of the messages read: “It’s time for all caring Muslims, Christians & Jews to obey the prophets & truly honor #Jesus’ birthday by standing up against Israeli crimes.”