Halloween tragedies of at least 154 dead in South Korea, Bridge collapse kills 135 in India –how to stay safe in a similar situation.
The world has been shocked by the awful news of at least 154 people dead, and dozens more injured in the narrow streets of Itaewon in Seoul, South Korea, an area popular with partygoers. 26 foreign nationals were among the dead, and most were young people in their teens and twenties.
This catastrophe has raised questions about effective crowd control and anticipating when a large group of people becomes a risk to health and safety. The residents of Seoul are used to being crowded on subways and busy streets, so were the authorities complacent that night? Panic set in when the crush became unbearable, and the rescuers’ efforts were curtailed by the sheer number of people jammed together. Reports say that the crowds built to a point where people couldn’t move independently or breathe, and the main cause of death was cardiac arrest.
India’s Bridge Collapse Tragedy
The next day the world was shocked again by news of another disaster, as a suspension bridge in India collapsed, killing at least 135 people. Around 400 people had gathered on the bridge, which was recently renovated, having been originally constructed in 1877. There are eyewitness accounts of around 15-20 young men rocking the bridge from side to side before it collapsed, throwing people to their deaths in the water as the suspension wires broke.
The local police have made 9 arrests, including managerial staff, ticketing clerks and three security guards, for failing to regulate crowds before the bridge crumpled. Two people awarded a contract to repair the structure were among those arrested, and it’s reported that there will be more arrests to come.
So, What Could You Do to Keep Yourself Safe?
Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these awful tragedies, families and friends devastated by their loss, and the bravery of the emergency services. It’s prompted us to share information that might one day save lives.
In the aftermath of these events, a useful article has been published by CNN, describing crowd dynamics and when a crowd is becoming dangerous. We can learn from these warnings, and if possible, anticipate the problem and get ourselves to safety before it’s too difficult to move.
A Simple Rule to Remember – If you’re in a crowd and people are close enough to bump against you, it could be getting too crowded.
That’s according to G. Keith Still, a visiting professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk and head of GKStill International, a consultancy that trains event organisers on how to spot danger.
Keith Still has spent 30 years studying and advising on crowd dynamics at large events worldwide. Crowd density can be measured by the number of people per square metre. When it gets to 5 per square metre, there is physical contact between people, and they can be at risk if there is pushing and shoving. At 6 per square metre, it’s harder to maintain a wide stance, so you’re at risk of tipping over and crowd surges can be triggered.
If you’re in a crowd, Keith says you can help yourself stay safe by watching out for areas likely to become most crowded and making your way out of the crowd if you don’t have enough personal space. Indeed, some survivors in the Seoul disaster escaped into buildings along the alley where the crowd was being crushed.
Amy Cox, who produces festivals and events as senior vice president at Deep South Entertainment, said she has a simple rule of thumb in an event crowd. “Personally, for me it’s: Can I put my hands on my hips comfortably without touching anyone else?”
What To Do Next
Click this link for the full article which contains images to demonstrate the density of crowds as they build. Not only might you save yourself and your loved ones someday, but it also explains how event managers should be monitoring the situation carefully to prevent disaster.