Tuesday 23 November 2010

The madness of crowds

At least 378 people have been killed, and more than 750 injured in a stampede at the end of a festival in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. A bridge across the Bassac river got overcrowded, and people panicked and began pushing from both ends.

More than two million people had been attending the festival, and the crush followed two of the highlights – a concert and a boat race. People were pushed to the ground and trampled. Some jumped in the river, while others climbed up and grabbed electric cables and got electrocuted. Many of the victims are believed to have been teenagers.

Fatal crushes have happened in many places, such as the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where a late goal by Spartak Moscow in a UEFA Cup match with HFC Haarlem in 1982 caused some fans who had decided to leave to try and turn back. On an icy staircase, chaos ensued, and up to 340 people were killed.

At the Hajj in Mecca in 1990, a crush developed in a tunnel , and more than 1,400 pilgrims were killed, while perhaps the worst of all happened in an air raid shelter in Chungking in 1941. During a Japanese raid, the ventilation system broke down, so while there seemed to be a lull, many people slipped outside for a breath of fresh air. At that moment, the alarm sounded again, and up to 4,000 people were killed in the panic.

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