The Stampede

More than 120 people, mostly women, were killed on Tuesday, 02 July 2024 in a stampede during a religious gathering in Hathras district of Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). In addition, over 300 people were injured.

As per data available, more than 50% of the stampedes in India have taken place in religious mass gatherings. From overcrowding and poor planning, to human psychology, many factors may lie behind deadly stampedes, says Indian Express.

Why do stampedes happen? Cramped spaces, overcrowding, few exits, mass panic and improper management are often the key contributors. Crowd density is an important factor – at above six persons per square meter, it starts becoming dangerous; at eight people per square meter, there could be injuries or worse.

Lessons from Hathras tragedy abound:

Attendance must be as per venue capacity and as authorised by local administration and police. Authorities must be stringent about the size of a gathering at mass events. In India, the administrative and police machinery is often not equipped to ensure that the crowd does not swell beyond the sanctioned numbers. In Hathras, the police had allowed 80,000 people to enter the venue, but unofficial estimates put the turnout at 250,000.

Arrangements – The venues should have adequate arrangements in terms of traffic and people management, emergency exits, signage, lighting, fire and life safety, security, communication, medical and emergency facilities. Number and placement of exits at the events are crucial, as are real-time interventions to ensure that religious or cultural fervour does not imperil public safety.

Healthcare and emergency facilities should be on alert.

“By all accounts many of these boxes were not ticked at Hathras,” says Indian Express in an editorial, adding that “Hathras tragedy should lead to setting down of careful safety protocols.”

To be fair to Indian authorities, and particularly the UP government, it has a track record of safely and securely organising Kumbh Mela – one of the largest human gatherings on the planet.

Authorities across the country must ensure that mass gatherings do not result in tragedies like Hathras.

Views from knowledgeable professionals on how to prevent stampedes would be welcome.

The article has references to open sources (Indian Express, Al Jazeera etc) and views from subjects from experts.