The principal of a primary school in northern China where a student was killed in a stampede on Wednesday has been suspended, according to state-funded outlet The Paper.

One student died and five others sustained serious injuries in the incident Tuesday morning at the Third Experimental Primary School in Puyang county, Henan, The Paper reported.

A teacher told local paper The Beijing News that the incident occurred when students were crowding to use the washrooms before sitting their monthly exams.

Outside the school. Photo: Weibo.

Mainland media previously reported the deaths of two students.

A spokesperson from the local party committee’s publicity department said that the school principal has been suspended from their duties. They said class would be suspended for the remainder of the week and that the washroom building would be reconstructed before Monday.

Parents previously said on social media that the stampede occurred when a wall collapsed in the lavatory and students were trying to get out of its way. The toilet facilities are located on the first and second floors of a building in an older area of the campus, state media outlet Chinanews reported.

The publicity department spokesperson told The Paper that the accounts of a collapsing wall were merely rumours.

Photo: Weibo.

One student at the school told The Beijing News that the incident occurred on the staircase to the second-floor washroom. First, students lost their footing on the stairs, “then as they crowded down a few fell down [the staircase].” The student said many first-graders were involved, but the authorities have not confirmed this.

Liu Wenhua, the deputy principal, told Chinanews that he was directing students down the stairs when he saw on the staircase that “there were so many students that it seemed like a flood, flowing straight down.”

He said that he tried to direct students slowly down the steps, but the crush of students was so great that he was lifted onto his back and carried down.

According to The Beijing News, the Ministry of Education issued a notice in 2005 requiring primary and secondary schools to establish systems to prevent stampede incidents, and to hold emergency drills every semester.

Despite precautions, fatal school stampedes still happen in China from time to time. Six children died and 22 were injured in a stampede in a primary school stairwell in Kunming, Yunnan in 2014. Four were killed in a stairwell stampede in Xianyang, Hubei the preceding year.

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Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.