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STAMPEDE CLAIMS MORE THAN 40 IN S. CHINA

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More than 40 people died and 44 were injured in a stampede of people at a crowded train station in southern China, Hong Kong news reports said Friday.

The stampede occurred Tuesday in the city of Hengyang in Hunan province, newspapers said.Quoting reports received by Hong Kong residents from relatives in Hunan, the South China Morning Post said the victims were in a large crowd of people trying to return to the southern city of Canton after spending the Chinese New Year holidays in villages.

Canton is the capital of Guangdong, which borders Hunan.

Tin Tin Yat Pao newspaper said the stampede was triggered when a man tried to pick up luggage he dropped on a pedestrian overpass at the station. Many people were trampled when those behind did not stop and piled into one another.

About 3,000 people were trying to board a freight train that had been converted to passenger use because of the large number of travelers, the newspaper said. It said more than 10,000 people were in the station at the time.

Hengyang government officials and local news media, contacted by phone from Beijing, confirmed an incident had occurred but refused to give any details.

Canton is often swamped with job seekers from poor regions of China after the Chinese New Year holiday, when itinerant workers return home with stories of riches to be made in the region.