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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 07:39 GMT
Inquiry into China New Year crush
Police take measurements on the bridge, at Miyun
Hundreds of people were on the bridge at the time
Investigators in China have begun an inquiry into a festival stampede which killed 37 people and injured 15.

The victims were packed onto a canal bridge in a park 65 km (40 miles) from Beijing to watch a lantern and firework display to end the New Year.

Hundreds of people were reportedly involved in the accident.

Witnesses described harrowing scenes of parents searching for their children in sub-zero temperatures. Children as young as seven were among the dead.

Pictures in Friday's papers show the bridge littered with debris and shoes belonging to those caught in the crush. They also showed a photo of desperate parents crying over the body of an unconscious boy with blue lips and a bruised face.

A city government spokesman said a work party had been set up to discuss issues like compensation.

Chinese President Hu Jintao has expressed concern and called for the investigation. A BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim, says accidents like this are not unusual in China. What sets this one apart is the speed of the government response and the fact that it comes from the very top level of the leadership.

Harrowing scenes

Most of the dead were crushed or suffocated after one person fell over on the bridge

They included migrant workers as well as residents of Miyun county.

"The bridge was packed. It was the only way to go from one exhibition area to the other," said a man in the park at the time of the accident.

"I had this feeling that it was dangerous on the bridge so I chose to walk over the ice. Many people though didn't want to do this as the ice can break."

State media reports on Friday said the 50-metre long (165 feet) bridge was three to four metres (9.9 to 13.2 feet) in width at its narrowest point and hundreds of people were on it at the time.

Another spectator said a similar incident had occurred the previous year.

"There was a bad omen last year, and they didn't do anything about it," said Lao Shi.

The BBC's Louisa Lim
"The blood stains on the bridge are a chilling reminder of what happened here"

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06 Feb 04  |  Photo Gallery
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