Darkest moment in brightest night

Updated: 2015-01-02 00:21


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SHANGHAI -- Du Yijun was there to greet a bright New Year but never expected to have her life terminated before dawn.

Du, 20, a sophomore from Shanghai-based Fudan University, lost her life in a stampede Wednesday night at a crowded square in Shanghai's gleaming Bund area.

Little was known about her at the moment except that she was fascinated with traditional Chinese culture. Her school mates declined to talk about her to "show respect to the deceased".

For now, no exact statistics can tell how many people were with Du for celebrations when the tragedy took place. But Ming Ming felt what was called overcrowding almost at the cost of his life.

When the 12-year-old boy, going to the Bund to enjoy the night scene with his family, was pulled out of the panic-stricken crowd, shoe prints soiled the new coat he put on for the New Year.

His mouth and nose were bleeding. People around him were screaming, crying and calling for help.

Ming Ming was saved by his heroic mother, who gave her surname as Yin. They are both survivors of the bloody New Year stampede that killed at least 36 and injured another 47.

The mother and son were standing at the close-packed Chen Yi Square when the stampede occurred. The Square near the Bund area was named after late marshal Chen Yi, who served as Shanghai mayor in 1949.

The Bund, a stretch of riverbank on the west side of the illuminated Huangpu River, saw thousands of revelers ushering in the New Year against the backdrop of historic architecture and dazzling skyscrapers at night.

On the other side of the river stands the Oriental Pearl Tower, a building representing the miracle of China's booming economy over the past decades.

Not far away from the Bund, the newly-established Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has been a pride of the country.

The mood was high. The crowd, mostly college students in festive clothes and snapping pictures with their mobile devices, was waiting for the count-down.

But suddenly, Yin, whose family members were standing on the steps adjoining the major road and the sightseeing platform, felt something had gone wrong. A commotion erupted and people began pushing her and her family around.

"The steps leading to the platform were full of people. Some wanted to get down and some wanted to go up. We were caught in the middle and saw some girls falling while screaming," she said. "Then people started to fall down, row by row."

The crowd started to panic. Yin tried to shield two kids in front of her from the crowd, and then turned back to call her son who was after her.

"He had already tumbled to the ground," said the woman in tears.

Ming Ming is now receiving treatment at a local hospital along with some other injured, who are mostly in their twenties.

The exact cause of the incident has yet to be confirmed.

Some survivors said they were reluctant to recall the scene, which they described as "horrific and hellish."

"It was too crowded to make a turn and we felt squeezed almost out of breath," said Yu, a woman who escaped from the incident. "There were people screaming and shouting -- Police, help me."

But it was too noisy and turbulent. Many fell over and people started trampling one another, said Yu who gave only her surname.

"When escorting my friend to the hospital, I saw four others in the ambulance, all badly injured," she said, adding that the only one who remained conscious was vomitting blood.

"It was too grisly a scene to recall," Yu said.

"You can't imagine this: you are squeezed off the ground. Someone behind you grabs your hair to stand up. Right there in front of you, a girl begs you to save her life and says she is dying, while another just lies motionless," said a post submitted online by Zuo Zhijian, whose account was verified by Sina Weibo as a local journalist.

"Two dozen people were lying on the ground with bags, cell phones, shoes and scarves scattered around, as well as blood and vomit everywhere," he wrote.