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10 Die in Fireworks Show Crush

Japan: Thousands of people leaving a summer celebration swarm onto a small bridge, resulting in casualties. The dead are mostly children.

July 22, 2001|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Thousands of revelers leaving a fireworks display surged onto a crowded pedestrian bridge Saturday night in western Japan, creating a crush of bodies that killed 10 people, most of them children, and injured more than 100.

People were packed onto the overpass outside the railway station in the seaside city of Akashi, said Masafumi Oshita, police spokesman in Hyogo state.

The crowd was so thick that people couldn't stay on their feet. The 110-yard footbridge is the only route to the station from the beach where the crowd watched the fireworks display, national broadcaster NHK said. The show drew 130,000 people, city official Yasuhiro Tanaka said.

"As soon as the fireworks ended, many people started pushing, and people started getting angry and yelling at each other," a youth in a T-shirt told NHK. "The woman next to me fell, and I landed on top of her. She was having trouble breathing."

"I was so scared," the youth said, "I thought I was going to die."

A man told NHK that he couldn't keep his feet on the ground because the crowd was so thick. "I was almost falling too, because I had to stand on one leg," he said.

A woman in a red cotton kimono said the bridge grew more packed as the fireworks display neared its end. "I had trouble breathing," she said. "There were so many people."

Rescuers rushed 122 people to hospitals, where 10 were pronounced dead, Oshita said. Eight of the dead were children younger than 10, the youngest a 2-year-old boy, state police said.

TV broadcasts showed a crowd at the scene, including youths in shorts and young women in cotton kimonos, while the red lights of emergency vehicles flashed in the darkness. Agents cordoned off the overpass as investigators examined the stairway leading up from the street for evidence. A metal panel on the overpass hung askew.

The accident came at a high point in the Japanese summer festival season, when thousands throng shrines to celebrate or gather for elaborate fireworks displays.

"I'm so sorry that many precious lives were lost at a festival which was supposed to be a fun event," Akashi Mayor Nobuhiro Okada said. "This never should have happened, and I am so sorry."

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