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The 27 Most Deadly Human Stampedes of All Time And Why They Happened

Published on Monday, June 1, 2020

The 27 Most Deadly Human Stampedes of All Time And Why They Happened

The importance of crowd control, crowd management, and a proper emergency exit protocol is often overlooked until a devastating human stampede occurs. Throughout history, human stampedes and crushes have occurred at crowded events, generally sparked by panic that spreads through the crowd like wildfire. Something as simple as someone tripping over luggage has triggered a deadly human stampede, as was the case with the 2006 Hajj Stampede. In an article for The Independent on the Bethnal Green Tube disaster, writer Godfrey Holmes noted that “stampedes start in the wild when animals, guided by herd instinct, bolt away from perceived danger towards perceived safety. People, despite being supposedly more rational beings, join stampedes for the same reason. It is not so often the stampede that kills but the resulting crush.”

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The 27 Most Deadly Human Stampedes of All Time And Why They Happened

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What Are Human Stampedes?

A human stampede is an uncontrolled mass of people fleeing from a perceived or actual threat. Stampedes often occur at major religious pilgrimages, at large entertainment events such as sporting contests and concerts, or during emergencies such as fires or bomb threats. The most dangerous aspect of human stampedes is crowd density. The more dense a crowd, the more likely that people will be crushed by the people around them, unable to breathe. Dense crowds take away an individual’s ability to move independently, which causes “shock waves” of pressure and movement throughout the crowd.

What Causes Human Stampedes?

Panic is often the first trigger of a human stampede, causing a crowd to move as a herd in one direction. Crowd management experts state that deadly human stampedes and human crushes often start when people in the front of a group reach a barrier of some sort that causes them to slow down or stop abruptly, while those behind are unable to see the obstacle and keep moving. This causes a domino effect because the momentum has no place to go. People in the front get crushed by the sheer force of the crowd, and the chaos and panic continues to escalate as bodies stack up.

Some examples of these barriers or collision points include the locked emergency exits of the 1903 Iroquois Theater Fire, the 150 steps leading down to the air-raid shelter in the Galleria Delle Grazie Tragedy, the intersecting crowds of the 2015 Mina Stampede, and the revolving door of the 1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire.

The people and crowd involved often take the blame for the tragedies, but in reality, poor crowd management and lack of planning are most often the true causes. Blocked exits, spaces filled beyond maximum occupancy, and insufficient emergency and security services all contribute to the likelihood and severity of human stampedes.

How to Survive a Human Stampede

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Here are some basic guidelines that may help your chances of survival during a human stampede:

  1. Be Prepared. Be aware of the possibility of a human stampede. If you’re attending a large event or visiting a club, make sure to note where all of the available exits are. Notice the less obvious exits — these may be used less during a mass panic.
  2. Take Cover. If there is no immediate danger (like a fire), try to take cover. Some options may be a side hallway, a closet, up a tree, vehicles, or anything large to climb on to separate yourself from the crowd.
  3. Keep Moving. If you can’t take cover, avoid resisting the momentum of the crowd. You need to conserve energy, so avoid pushing against others. Try moving forward diagonally across the crowd to reach the edge of the stampede, where you are less likely to reach a choke or collision point.
  4. Keep Your Arms Up. Try to keep your arms up at chest level to push out against the pressure of the crowd to help prevent being crushed. Crushing is the most deadly aspect of a human stampede.
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Author: Allison Rampolla

Categories: General

Tags: Infographics

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