We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.

The full article is available here as HTML.

Press Ctrl-C to copy

Better data and systematic analysis are urgently needed to prevent human stampedes, which are likely to become more frequent with widening gaps in urban health indices and the growing threat of emergencies related to food, water and energy scarcity, say Frederick M. Burkle and Edbert B. Hsu.

Most of the 215 human stampedes recorded between 1980 and 2007 occurred in South Asia and Africa, with fatality rates nearly eight-fold higher in developing countries.

Stampedes are caused by either panic attempts to escape a threat or when people in a crowd rush to see something gratifying. The Ram Janki Temple stampede, which occurred in India last year (4 March), shared similar features to many of the developing world's deadliest disasters, say the authors — high crowd density, rising religious fervour, handout of scarce resources, failure to alert authorities and inadequate safety measures.

But high-quality epidemiological data are lacking — usually, what is known about these events is put together from anecdotal internet and news reports. Global disaster databases such as EM-DAT do not track human stampedes. And there is scant peer-reviewed literature to advance knowledge of the potential cultural or religious obstacles to crowd-gathering.

More needs to be done to understand stampedes, the authors argue. At a minimum level planning officials should remove potential bottlenecks, mark exits clearly, balance crowd dispersion, and offer reliable access points and safety valves.

The lack of formal information limits efforts to implement policy-level improvements, say Burkle and Hsu. And there is a perception that standards cannot be enforced.

But they highlight the Hajj in Saudi Arabia — one of the world's largest annual pilgrimages — as an example of where the introduction of traffic and safety rules has successfully prevented stampedes.

Link to full article in the The Lancet*

*free registration required to view this article


The Lancet doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60442-4 (2010)