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Israel religious festival stampede kills 44 and leaves more than 100 injured

Israel religious festival stampede kills 44 and leaves more than 100 injured

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  • GS 3 || Disaster Management || Disaster Management || Preparedness & Response

Why in the news?

At least 44 people have been killed in a crush at a crowded religious festival in the north-east of Israel. Dozens more were injured at the Lag B’Omer celebration, which takes place annually at the foot of Mount Meron.

Background:

The country’s successful vaccination programme has allowed it to lift many restrictions, but health officials had still warned of the risk of Covid-19.

About the stampede:

  • Early reports suggested a structure at the site had collapsed, but emergency officials later said a crush had occurred at around 01:00 local time.
  • It started after some attendees slipped on steps, which caused dozens more to fall.
  • “It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster. Thousands of people struggling to flee through a narrow passageway.

How to manage events like stampede

Crowding is a phenomena when large number of people gather in a given area. In case of mass gathering (events, festivals, and religious places) people often gather in greater density, which poses a great challenge on infrastructural capacity. This extreme high density may result in crowd disaster. There are mainly three reasons for stampede to occur at a particular place: competitive advantage, safety, and system failure

  • Risk Management Strategies- Crowded condition always possess risk with it. Risk is defined as “the possibility of a person or entity suffering harm or loss”

  • Venue Suitability- The foremost task in organizing an event is determining the suitable venue for an event. It is the responsibility of an organizer to find the appropriate venue for a particular event.
  • Crowd management and control- Crowd management includes: planning an event, training of employee for better crowd management and collecting data. It also includes good communication, effective signage, and finding appropriate number of security personnel. Safety must be paramount issue in such events not the profitability. The safety can be ensured by managing crowd properly.
  • Emergency planning and procedure- Most of the stampede happens due to loss over crowd density (overcrowding). There are also some stampedes, which happened due to emergency situations like fire, bombing rumors, gas dispersion, power cuts etc.
  • Role of Technology- Risk of stampede can be avoided if appropriate actions are taken by analyzing the behaviors and movements of crowd. There are warning sign for stampede. If appropriate actions are taken beforehand, many lives can be saved and disaster can be avoided. One such action is tracking and monitoring the movements of crowd
  • Crowd capacity and Crowd density- There are two parameters which can be found analytically for managing the crowd to safety: crowd capacity and crowd density.
    • Crowd capacity- Capacity is related to maximum number of people which can be allowed in an event without any risk. In other terms it can be stated as maximum attendance limit to an event.
    • Crowd density- Crowd density tells about the status of crowd, how crowd is distributed (local density), and when are the chances of abrupt behavior with in the crowd. Crowd density is defined as the number of people per meter square of an area.
  • Pedestrian Simulation- Planning of mass events is very difficult as organizer does not know beforehand how many people will come. In that event too many people might collect in enclosed space. Simulation model works on “what if” methodology. Simulation may help in:
    • Evaluating the capacity of holding area.
    • Evaluating various crowd evacuation strategies.
    • Estimating evacuation time.
    • Providing trajectory of pedestrians which may help in identifying the congestion and bottlenecks

National Guide on Crowd Management-NDMA:

In view of the recurring stampedes at places of mass gathering, including religious places, and typically ad-hoc responses to those, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had prepared ‘Suggestive Framework for Preparation of Crowd Management Plan for Events/Venues of Mass Gathering’.

The major recommendations include:

  • Understanding venue, visitors and stakeholders
  • Crowd Handling
  • Safety and Security
  • Communication: To communicate with the crowds, a public address device with loudspeakers mounted at all crowded points is used.
  • Medical and emergency care: Medical first-aid rooms and emergency operations centers should be established to deal with post-disaster emergencies.
  • Event organizers and venue managers should collaborate with others, including local administration and police, to create, execute, evaluate, and update a disaster management plan.
  • Civil society’s role: Event/venue managers may enlist the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil defense in traffic control, crowd control, medical assistance, sanitation, and mobilization of local resources in case of disaster.
  • Role of police: The police should actively participate in venue assessment and preparedness checks and guide crowd and traffic movements.
  • Capacity Building: Capacity building, conducting drills, periodic assessment of training of security personnel, police is essential to prevent crowd disasters

Example of major stamped in India:

  • Kumbh Mela stampede, February 1954- This was one of the worst stampedes in India that claimed over 800 lives in Mahakumbh mela at Allahabad.
  • Chennai Flood Relief Centre stampede, 2005– This happened in December 2005 at an emergency flood-relief distribution centre in Chennai as the flood victims queued to receive food aid. Many people feel that the stampede could have been avoided had the state Government organised flood aid distribution on a regular basis at a number of locations, with police and public address systems to regulate the crowd.
  • Elphinstone Road railway station stampede, 2017-In the morning rush hour of September 29, the stampede at the footbridge on Elephantine Road railway station claimed 27 lives.

Conclusion:

The way for preventing overcrowding may be cheap tickets in off peak hours, entertainment before and after an event. Establishing venue capacity may help in avoiding the risk of disaster at first place. An overview of pedestrian simulation is presented which can help in developing evacuation strategies for safer events. Future work includes presenting a case study which shows how these strategies help for safer events and developing a simulation model for effective evacuation process in case of emergency. This work may also be extended to find the expected permissible waiting time for entry and exit.

Mains oriented question:

How can one avoid a stampede? How to deal in that situation, what are the steps that is needed to manage stampede? (250 words)