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Stampede in Israel makes a crowd-disaster

  • Category
    Disaster Management
  • Published
    3rd May, 2021

A huge gathering on Mount Meron to celebrate a religious holiday, has turned into a disaster due to stampede.

Context

A huge gathering on Mount Meron to celebrate a religious holiday, has turned into a disaster due to stampede.

Background

  • Recently tens of thousands of Jews had thronged to the Mount Meron tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag Baomer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.
  • Media had reported that it started after some attendees slipped on steps, which caused dozens more to fall, leading to a man-made disaster of stampede
  • This incident reflects that poor crowd management was deployed by the authorities responsible which could not avert this man-made disaster.

Analysis

What is crowd management?

  • The tenets of crowd management lie on fundamental ground of managing the demand -supply gap through
    • Controlling the crowd inflow
    • Regulating the crowd at the venue
    • Controlling the outflow
  • The demand can be understood by-
    • historical numbers, crowd arrival patterns, growing popularity, type of visitors
    • Identify mass arrival time windows creating peaks (season, days of the week, time in the day, festivals, holidays etc.),
    • Advance ticket booking/registration
    • Public transport timetables
  • The supply can be understood by
    • The capacity of the venue: seating capacity; worships, offerings or prayers possible per hour etc
    • Calculate the capacity of queue complex/holding areas

Human Stampedes in India

  • Sabrimala Tragedy of 1999
  • 52 pilgrims were killed and several injured in a tragedy at Pampa hill top.
  • Cause:
    • The tragedy happened because of uncontrolled crowding of pilgrims at the Hill Top in Pamba and the rushing down by pilgrims, immediately after seeing the Makarjyothi, towards parking places and bus stand. Some people stumbled upon and others fell over them near Kerala State Electricity Board’s building
  • Shri Kalubai Yatra Mandhardev at Wai, Satara, Maharashtra, 2005
  • A stampede took place at the temple premises killing 293 and injuring 250-300people visiting. Fires and gas cylinder explosions that followed, added to the panic. All the deaths were caused because of suffocation. There were no deaths because of fire.
  • Causes:
    • Wrong Crowd estimates (More pilgrims expected because of Tuesday)
    • Temple compound not big enough to hold large number of pilgrims
    • Narrow, steep, wet (slippery), winding path with (illegal) vendors (some having gas cylinders) on both sides
    • Illegal electric connections
  • 1954 Prayag Kumbh Mela stampede
  • 1994 Gowari stampede
  • 1996 Haridwar and Ujjain stampedes
  • 1999 Sabarimala stampede
  • 2005 December Chennai stampede
  • 2005 November Chennai stampede
  • 2008 Jodhpur stampede
  • 2011 Sabarimala stampede
  • 2013 Prayag Kumbh Mela stampede
  • 2013 Madhya Pradesh stampede
  • 2014 Mumbai stampede
  • 2014 Patna stampede
  • 2017 Mumbai stampede

What are the causes/triggers for crowd-disaster?

Structural

  • Structure collapse of
    • Barricades/ bamboo railings/wire fence/ Metal barrier
    • Makeshift bridge.
    • Temporary structure.
    • Railings of the bridgecaused by panic triggered by rumours

Fire/Electricity

  • Fire in a makeshift facility or a shop
  • Cooking in a makeshift facility
  • Wooden structure/ quick burning acrylic catching fire

Crowd Control

  • More than anticipated crowd at store/mall/political rallies/ examinations/ religious gatherings/ public celebrations
  • Underestimation of audience, staffing, services
  • People allowed in excess of holding capacity due to overselling of tickets for an event

Crowd Behaviour

  • A wild rush to force the way towards entrance/exits
  • Crowds attempting to enter a venue after the start/closing time
  • A collision between large inward flows and outward flows

Security

  • Under deployment of security personnel to regulate to control crowd.
  • Lack of adequate scientific planning in making police arrangement to deal with crowd with proper sectoral deployment under an officer with adequate manpower and each sector reporting to the senior police personnel in charge of the police arrangement.
  • Lack of proper wireless deployment with clutter free call arrangement between sector in-charge and officer in-charge of the police arrangement

Lack of Coordination between Stakeholders

  • Coordination gap between agencies (e.g. Commissioner /Superintendent of Police and District Magistrate; PWD, Fire Service, Forest officials, Revenue officials, Medical officers and shrine management etc.)
  • Poor infrastructure (Plans on paper but no implementation due to lack of funds, resources, or will)

Flowchart describing crowd-disaster process

How the crowd can be effectively managed?

  • Multiple routes should be encouraged (normal, express, emergency) with varying “route gradient”. This will also help in movement of typically vulnerable groups (children, people with special needs etc.)
  • Long Term Perspectives is required for crowd management at religious places hence focus should be on infrastructure development which should depend on popularity, periodicity of event, weather, terrain, local population etc.
  • Each staging point should have sufficient facilities for rest, food, water, hygiene. An effective way of counting/monitoring visitors passing through a staging point should be installed to regulate the flow
  • Research has shown that understanding of crowd behaviour has led to community-based approach to crowd control instead of force-based control.
  • An attempt has to be made and the intelligence has to be gathered about the motives of various visitors (social, entertainment, political, religious, economic etc.) and unwanted visitors (theft, disruption, terror etc.)
  • A Unified Control Systembrings the agencies with different functional authorities, roles, and responsibilities to work together effectively without affecting individual accountability. Under a Unified Control System, a single, coordinatedIncident Action Plan will direct all activities.

Role of ICT in crowd-disaster management

  • Registration database
    • database system should be deployed to capture demographic details (gender, age, and place etc.) of the visitors. This data would be useful in capturing underlying patterns
  • Online registration
    • This registration process could be used to influence the arrival pattern
  • Deployment of RFID tags
    • As visitors move through the system, the scanners deployed at various locations could be used to keep track of their movements along with timings. This can also help track the exact number of visitors at various locations
  • Geographical Information Systems
    • (GIS), wherever possible, should be deployed in location planning, layout, alignment of roads, structural assessment of parking lots, helipads, laying utility lines (water, electricity, gas) etc.

Conclusion

  • Event volunteers and paramedics must commence rapid first aid treatment.
  • Route patients to area hospitals in a coordinated manner, so that relatives can easily find them.
  • A control room and helpdesk to handle all the inquiries.
  • Police personnel and relief workers should ensure proper storage and tagging of the mobiles, purses, footwear and other belongings of the victims.
  • Psycho-social support and mental health services for the survivors, and the persons who lost their loved ones.
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