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    Jan 22, 2015

    4 officials fired over Shanghai stampede


    FOUR local officials in Shanghai have been sacked over a New Year's Eve crush on the Bund waterfront that killed 36 people, the city government announced yesterday, saying that the carnage could have been avoided.

    New Year revellers, many of them young women, were trampled after flocking to the Bund amid severe overcrowding, raising questions about why the authorities had failed to implement stronger safety measures.

    Four district officials in Huangpu, where the accident took place, have been relieved of their Communist Party and government posts, Shanghai officials told a news conference.

    Those dismissed include the area's party chief, Zhou Wei, and local government head Peng Song. The two were among several officials who went for an expensive restaurant dinner 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 dinner sparked widespread outrage online.

    The authorities imposed lesser administrative penalties on seven others, including district officials and Shanghai police officers, a government statement said.

    "The Dec 31 incident is one that should not have happened and could have been completely avoided," vice-mayor Zhou Bo told the news conference, the first one open to foreign media since the incident.

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

    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.

    "Preventive preparations were lacking, site management was weak, improper response and handling triggered a stampede which caused major injuries and deaths," said Xiong Xinguang, head of Shanghai's emergency management office.

    "The Huangpu district government and related departments have inescapable responsibility for this incident."

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

    The news conference, which took place amid heavy police security, did not address the issue of compensation for the families of the victims.