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`I was told my daughter had died'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-06 23:07

Bao Yueming took his two children to the Minyun Lantern Festival gathering on Thursday night, but brought back only his son.

He has lost his 10-year-old daughter forever.

Bao Yueming (left) receives treatment at a Miyun County Hospital in Beijing, as his five-year-old son (right) survives a killing stampede. [newsphoto]

The girl -- beautiful little Bao Jingying -- died on the night that marks the end of China's traditional Lunar New Year.

She suffocated in a crush of people atop of the arch bridge at the Mihong Park.

Her sad, 38-year-old father looked stunned at everything happening around him yesterday at the Minyun County Hospital, where 15 injured people remained. He couldn't say anything to anybody, and held a quilt over his head.

Meanwhile, his wife, 32-year-old Li Louhua, sobbed loudly in the ward.

Both suffered leg injuries in the accident.

The couple's 5-year-old son drank milk from a plastic bag as he sat on his mother's bed yesterday. He is still too young to understand the sudden tragedy.

The boy is free from any injuries because his father heroically lifted him overhead after a visitor to the park stumbled on the bridge, saving the child from the maelstrom of confusion as 37 people were crushed by the oncoming throng.

"We were on the way back home then. I took the hands of my daughter," Li Louhua muttered through tears.

The arch -- called Rainbow Bridge -- is an important passage to the outside, the Olympic Park, an open area for residents.

"It is my husband that took my daughter to hospital since I couldn't move at that time. My leg was broken. Then I was told my daughter had died," she said, sobbing.

"She died beside me.

The picture shows the footbridge in Mihong Park on the northern outskirts of Beijing February 6, 2004. [newsphoto]

"Why was there no policeman to guarantee the order? Why? There are so many people in the park, maybe tens of thousand!" she said.

The couple, locals of East China's Anhui Province, came to Beijing to work as housefitters over 10 years ago.

Families of the dead and injured, are at the hospital. Authorities also arranged for them to stay at three hotels in the Miyun County.

One five-member family had just one survivor.

Some injured children were left alone at the hospital since all adults had to leave to deal with the funeral arrangements.

A 17-year-old girl lay on her hospital bed in Miyun yesterday, with swollen legs and swollen eyes.

"My grandmother died in the accident. My mother is at the crematorium with her now, although my mum herself was seriously injured," she said, declining to give her name.

According to Fang Yang, a local woman, a Lantern Festival gathering at the park was held last year for the first time.

"But that lantern exhibition was held in the street. So the conditions were not that bad although there were numerous visitors then as well," Fang said.

"The bridge is too steep for so many people to walk up," she said.

Inside, in the hospital lobby, bodies lay covered with white sheets. Police barred all visitors from the building while ambulances hurried back and forth. Distraught relatives emerged through the main doors.

"It's a horrible scene in there. There are more than 30 bodies inside," said Zhao Jingfu, whose sister-in-law died. "My heart is in pain," he said, fighting back tears.

The Lantern Festival is a traditional part of the Chinese Spring Festival celebrations. Chinese have been marking the dawn of this year's celebration of the Year of the Monkey since January 22, and Thursday night was the final night. It is marked by a celebration of lanterns and lights in communities nationwide.

Miyun County is about 65 kilometers northeast of urban Beijing. It is the site of Miyun Reservoir, one of the largest in China and a key water supply for the Chinese capital.

City steps up help for crush victims

From bringing in medical specialists to looking after the victims' families, Beijing's municipal government has moved to help victims of a Lantern Festival incident that left dozens dead and wounded.

Thirty-seven people were killed and 15 were injured around 7:45 pm Thursday during a festival gathering that attracted 30,000 people in Beijing's Miyun County.

As people crowded in Mihong Park to celebrate the Lantern Festival, one spectator stumbled on a bridge in the park. The stumble started a chain reaction that resulted in a stampede that caused many others to fall and be trampled. Many were suffocated to death, witnesses said.

Of the 37 people killed, 27 were women. The victims range in age from seven to 68 years old.

Most lived in Miyun County, said sources from the county government.

Bodies of the victims were sent to the Miyun County Funeral Parlour by Friday morning.

The 15 injured were out of danger on Friday, said sources with the municipal government.

The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Health mobilized a troop of 44 medical workers and 22 ambulances to the Miyun County Hospital, where all of the 15 injured were sent.

"We have arranged the best experts in chest surgery, orthopaedics and neurosurgery in Beijing to take part in the medical treatment," Jin Dapeng, director of the local health bureau said yesterday.

Experts include Wang Chen, director of the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and Tian Wei, director of the Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, a renowned hospital for orthopaedics.

"They will stay at the county hospital until all of the injured recover," he said.

None of them are in need of surgery. They suffered from soft tissue injuries, said sources.

Another nine people who were slightly injured were treated Friday morning.

No decisions have been made on compensation for the families of the people killed, said Jia Haijiang, spokesman for the Miyun county government.

Meanwhile, five of the victims insured by Pingan Insurance received payments of 162,000 yuan (US$20,000) in total by Friday.

A headquarter to handle accident-related issues was set up by Miyun County.

Over 300 governmental staff were assigned to deal with the fallout of the tragedy.

Relatives of the 37 victims are now living in three hotels in the county. Every one is getting help from between three and five workers assigned to deal with their needs, said sources with the local government.

Ambulances were posted outside the hotels in case of emergency.

An investigation into incident is ongoing.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have called for the utmost efforts to save the injured and urged an investigation into the accident.

Beijing's Acting Mayor Wang Qishan called urban districts and suburban counties as well as local work units conduct thorough safety inspections and root out hidden risks.

Wang especially stressed safety inspections of accident-prone sectors and areas such as transportation, coal mines, chemical plants, gas stations and firecracker factories.

Wang also urged inspections on public places such as hotels, department stores, cinemas, parks, buses and railway stations and subways.

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