Last New Year’s Eve, a light display in Shanghai turned into a deadly stampede after hundreds of thousands of locals and migrants flooded into the city’s glitzy waterfront area. The incident left 36 dead and 49 others injured, victims of an absence of adequate crowd control and planning.
To prevent similar tragedies from reoccurring this year, Shanghai authorities have cancelled many of the city’s famed New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Events at Nanjing Road, Yu Garden, the Bund, and the Bund Origin area—where last year’s stampede happened—are all cancelled on New Year’s Eve, the local Huangpu district government announced Dec. 18 on its microblog Weibo account (link in Chinese, registration required).
One of the most densely populated urban districts in the world, Huangpu is to Shanghai what central Manhattan is to New York City. Imagine New York’s Times Square ball drop being cancelled, because the city was worried it could not handle the crowds.
The large-scale shutdown means a countdown to midnight limited to 4,800 participants at the Xintiandi nightlife complex will be the only “big” New Year’s celebration in Shanghai. The Nanjing East Road subway station, nearest to the Bund, will be closed at 8pm at New Year’s Eve, and other major stations are expected to close well before midnight, state-owned digital publication the Paper reported (link in Chinese).
A 3D laser light show has been held along Shanghai’s historic Bund waterfront since 2012, and attracted more than 300,000 people in 2013. Last year the event was moved for the first time to the Bund Origin area—a much smaller venue 500 meters away—and limited to 2,000 participants with tickets only (link in Chinese). But the change was not adequately publicized, and an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people still gathered at the Bund, where security measures were downgraded.
Families of the victims have each received 800,000 yuan (about $123,000) in compensation, about 20 times the average annual income of a Shanghai resident, and 11 officials were held accountable. Four of them were removed from their posts.
Huang Yu, a 20-year-old student at Shanghai’s elite Tongji University told Quartz that instructors at her college had told students not to head to places that could be crowded, including the Bund, on New Year’s Eve. “It’s all cancelled,” she said. “Even if you want to go, you have nowhere to go.”