37 killed in Beijing lantern festival stampede
Tragedy struck last night when at least 37 people died and 15 others were injured at a Lantern Festival gathering at a Miyun County Park 65 kilometres northeast of downtown Beijing.
Thousands of people had come to watch the specially prepared lanterns featured at the annual festival.
Witnesses said frantic parents were searching for their children in the freezing night air after the crush. All that was left after the bodies were taken away was scattered clothes and shoes and an eerie quiet.
Many of the victims were crushed and suffocated to death by crowd, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Most of the people killed were women and children, some as young as seven-years-old, said a witness.
Emergency crews transported the injured to the People's Hospital of Miyun County, a county public security official told China Daily.
President Hu Jintao urged all possible measures and utmost efforts in the rescue work and proper care for the injured. Other State leaders, including Premier Wen Jiabao, also voiced their concerns.
Beijing Party chief Liu Qi and Acting Mayor Wang Qishan rushed to the site to help direct rescue work.
Police are still investigating the cause of the accident.
The Lantern Festival is the 15th and last day of the Lunar New Year period when people traditionally go out to see lanterns.