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Stampede prompts safety calls

By WANG XIAODONG and JIN ZHU  (China Daily)

07:48, February 28, 2013

An injured pupil receives treatment at a hospital in Xiangyang, Hubei province, on Wednesday after four pupils were killed in a stampede at an elementary school. (Photo/ Xinhua)

Officials, principal removed from posts after four students killed in incident

Four students died in a stampede at a primary school on Wednesday morning in Hubei province, in an incident that has prompted calls to improve campus safety.

The accident happened at about 6 am at Qinji Primary School in Laohekou city, according to a news release from the city government.

Six officials, including the director of the city's education bureau, were removed from their posts for investigation, and another six, including the principal of the school, were transferred to judicial organs, according to the release.

Students stand by the scene of a stampede accident at the Qinji Elementary School in Xueji county of Xiangyang, Central China's Hubei province, Feb 27, 2013. (Photo/China Daily)

The accident also injured seven students, the statement said.

Initial investigations found that the stampede occurred when students exited a four-story dorm to take morning class, but the gate on the first floor was not open as usual, blocking the flow of people and causing the stampede, the statement said.

The injured were treated in hospital, and all of them are in stable condition, according to the statement.

The gate of the dorm building was locked at night for the safety of the students living there, according to Du Yongjie, principal of Xueji Central School, which administers Qinji Primary School.

"There was a crowd near the gate and teachers rushed to open the gate after they heard the cries," he told China Central Television. "When they arrived at the site, the gate had been bent out of shape by the crowd."

The principal of the school and the two teachers responsible for opening the gate have been detained by police, according to Laohekou city government.

The accident prompted heated debate on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro-blogging platform.

"Similar accidents keep happening, exposing the deficiency in infrastructure and management in many schools," a netizen wrote.

Several stampedes have occurred in schools in recent years.

In November 2010, more than 40 students were injured in a stampede at a primary school in Aksu, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

In 2009, eight students were killed and 26 injured in a stampede in Yucai Private High School in Xiangxiang, Central China's Hunan province.

Yu Yafeng, a professor of campus safety studies at Beijing Normal University, said poor safety management in some schools is the main reason for such accidents.

"Stampede accidents in schools always happen at times such as at breaks, when many students are in one place," she said.

If teachers fail to maintain order, such accidents will be repeated, she said.

"School authorities should launch routine checks of security facilities, such as stair rails and lights, to eliminate potential hazards," she said.

Last year, the Ministry of Education urged all elementary and secondary schools across China to educate students on how to respond in an emergency to better protect themselves.

The schools were asked to map out their safe evacuation routes, taking into consideration the number of students, building layout and corridor width, the ministry said.

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