The Deadliest Stampedes In History

The huge gathering of crowds in Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage has triggered several stampedes in the past.
The huge gathering of crowds in Mecca, Saudi Arabia during the Hajj pilgrimage has triggered several stampedes in the past.

A human stampede involves an uncontrollable mass running mainly as a result of impulse among an overcrowded large crowd. More often the running takes place when attempting to escape a threat that may either be known or unknown. Stampedes also occur among animals who graze or exist in herds such as wild horses, elephants, rhinoceroses, cattle walruses, and wildebeests among others. Large entertainment events can be at risk of human stampede, as can religious pilgrimages. A human stampede is most likely to happen where large groups of people are collectively enclosed on all sides. Human stampedes are also triggered by potential threats such as explosions, fires, or riots.

The Deadliest Stampedes In History

Mina stampede, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 2015

During the 2015 Hajj pilgrimage which took place in Mina, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, about 2,268 pilgrims died. Estimates of the death toll vary in numbers, but the event remains the deadliest disaster ever to take place during the Hajj. Most of the victims of the stampede were pilgrims from Iran, Mali, and Nigeria. The stampede started in Mina at the intersection of the 223 and 204 streets up to the Jamaraat Bridge. However, the reason behind what triggered the stampede remains a dispute.

Phnom Penh stampede, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2010

On November 23, 2010, around 357 people died while hundreds of others were injured in a stampede in Phnom Penh, Cambodia during the Khmer Water Festival. The stampede took place at the end of the three-day festival whose aim was celebrating the semi-annual reversal of flow of the Tonlé Sap River. It is estimated that about 4 million attendees were present at the time. The stampede was by far the worst in the history of the festival. The stampede is believed to have been triggered by the congestion of people on the bridge who kept pushing on both ends, but the pushing resulted in a sudden panic and eventually the stampede. The following day approximately 500 Buddhist monks gathered at the site to say prayers for those killed in the stampede. The government offered to compensate both the injured with US$250 and families of those deceased with US$1,250. The government also expressed interest in building a memorial for the victims who perished during the stampede.

Ponte das Barcas disaster, Portugal, 1809

On March 29, 1809, Napoleonic troops invaded Portugal under the command of Marshall Soult, resulting in one of the worst stampedes in history. As advancing troops tried to cross River Douro, the population fled to the Ponte das barcas which was a pontoon bridge due to the weight of a large number of people the bridge collapsed and about 6,000 people drowned in the disaster.

What To Do In The Face Of Stampedes?

Stampedes can result in serious injuries or even death. In the event of a stampede, it is advisable to use an exit that has fewer people as opposed to the one through which most people are attempting to exit. When facing a stampede situation, it is best to stay on your feet and avoid yelling or screaming. Also, guard your chest with your hands and avoid pushing against the crowd. When another person extends their hand for help, reach out and grab hold to keep them on their feet as well. Instead of shouting, use sign language such as waving or pointing to communicate with people around you.

The Deadliest Stampedes In History

RankIncident Year Of OccurrenceDeath Toll
1Ponte das Barcas disaster, Portugal18096,000
2Stampede at air raid shelter, Japanese bombing of Chongqing, China 19414,000
3Mina stampede, Mecca, Saudi Arabia20152,268
4Mecca tunnel tragedy, Mecca, Saudi Arabia19901,426
5Khodynka Tragedy, Moscow, Russia18961,389
6Baghdad bridge stampede, Baghdad, Iraq2005953
7Kumbh Mela stampede, Allahabad, India1954800
8Phnom Penh stampede, Phnom Penh, Cambodia2010357
9Galleria delle Grazie, Genoa, Italy1942354
10Stampede at the stoning of the devil ritual, Mecca, Saudi Arabia2006362

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