Shanghai's CNY festivities muted with events cancelled, limit on crowds after fatal stampede

People watch a light show before a stampede incident occurred at the New Year's celebration on the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai Dec 31, 2014. Shanghai is toning down Chinese New Year celebrations by cancelling events and limiting peopl
People watch a light show before a stampede incident occurred at the New Year's celebration on the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai Dec 31, 2014. Shanghai is toning down Chinese New Year celebrations by cancelling events and limiting people at tourist spots after a stampede killed 36 people seven weeks earlier. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (AFP) - Shanghai is toning down Chinese New Year celebrations by cancelling events and limiting people at tourist spots after a stampede killed 36 people seven weeks earlier.

Police officers on foot patrol and driving golf cart-like vehicles kept an eye on tourists who flocked to the Bund on Wednesday, the eve of the traditional festival. Large stretches of the Bund remain closed off to the public by a temporary wall put up by the city shortly after the accident.

In the wake of the accident, the Shanghai government has cancelled at least five events during the week-long holiday, including a food fair and traditional bell-ringing at the Longhua temple. The city has also announced it will restrict the number of visitors at more than 70 tourist spots, including the viewing platform of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the flagship Shanghai Museum.

Restrictions on numbers have not been announced for the Bund, where the crush also injured 49 people. However, police and security guards were limiting access to an elevated promenade along the riverfront through just a few designated points.

"Shanghai is safe. That was just a chance accident," said one tourist from the southern province of Fujian, taking a group photo with family and friends near where the crush occurred.

"This kind of accident is common in China, everyone going in one direction without thinking," said another tourist from central Henan province, who gave his surname as Chao. "The government is giving it lots of attention now."

An investigative report blamed police and city officials, who were aware of overcrowding but failed to act and communicate the risk to the higher-level authorities.

Revellers, many of them young women, were trampled to death on New Year's Eve after flocking to the historic riverfront, known as the Bund, a popular tourist destination.

In January, the city announced that 11 officials would be punished, with four removed from their posts.

China's State Council, or Cabinet, has called on local governments nationwide to control large gatherings at tourist spots during the Chinese New Year.

At the Yu Garden, another tourist site located on the site of Shanghai's former old city, metal barriers and security guards loudly blowing whistles kept the crowds in check.

An annual outdoor event for the Lantern Festival, which falls 15 days from the start of the Chinese New Year, at the Yu Garden has also been cancelled.