A stampede killed at least 35 people and injured 43 during New Year's Eve celebrations in Shanghai, on the city's famed waterfront tourist strip known as the Bund, according to local authorities.
However, it was not clear what triggered the movement of people in the crowded area shortly before midnight. Andrew Jordan Shainker, 28, an American teacher in Shanghai, said he watched the stampede from a nearby restaurant, and saw two bodies taken out at around 11:30 p.m.
People moved between areas on the riverfront in the 20 minutes before midnight, possibly to grab fake paper money it said was being thrown to the crowd, a witness said. It wasn't clear whether the fake money caused the stampede.
The police were scouring a seventh-floor rooftop club venue in a building called Bund 18, but their intent wasn't clear. A woman with the police said the fake currency came from a fourth-floor club in the building called M18. The currency resembles a U.S. 100 dollar note but with the club name inscribed.
An M18 employee said the fake bills were decorations arranged on a table at the club and available to clubgoers. The employee said he was not aware of the fatalities at the time.
Officials were treating the injured at four local hospitals. Photos of Politburo member and former Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and the current mayor, Yang Xiong, in an emergency meeting after the incident, were seen on Chinese media sites.
Sick people lay in beds around the hospital lobby, though many appeared to be overflow patients rather than victims of the stampede. Dozens of police officers were also in the lobby.
The riverside midnight-countdown event features a light show over two sides of the Huangpu River and is usually heavily attended along several riverside blocks.
Local authorities block off streets from traffic and give merrymakers a rare opportunity to walk on the wide street in front of the city's waterfront buildings that date to the early part of the 20th century.
It was unclear from a few blocks away what had taken place on the Bund. Immediately before midnight, the small number of police on one street leading perpendicular to the Bund appeared to struggle to control a crowd that at times surged one way or another, initially running toward the Bund and later away from it.
According to local authorities, the countdown event was moved to a new location along the Bund this year because of concerns about a surging crowd in past years. More than 300,000 attended last year and it led to traffic chaos.