2017 Chittagong Stampede

A December 18 stampede in the city of Chittagong, Bangledesh claimed the lives of at least 10, with an estimated 50 seriously injured.  The number of fatalities is expected to rise.  The chaos ensued outside the Rima Community Centre following the funeral procession of local city mayor, Mohiuddin Chowdhury.  Mourners had gathered for a traditional Muslim feast.

Consensus opinion — the stampede was the result of a crowd surge.  Too many people, too little capacity.

Many headlines blamed the source of the stampede on “free food” being offered.  However, it should be noted there were 13 other feasts that day commemorating the life of Chowdhury, drawing crowds estimated in the 100,000 range.  If free food was really the proximate cause, why weren’t there security issues at the other locations?  At all the other venues, the services were carried out peacefully and efficiently.

The crowd dynamic which triggers an actual stampede is usually an amalgamation of multiple variables.  In this case, a crowd of roughly 10,000 had already gathered outside a 2-story building with a maximum capacity of 4,000.  Apparently, loudspeakers outside the venue were used to inform the public that there was a sufficient number of meals available.  This could have actually made matters worse.  Almost having a “reverse psychology” impact on the anxious crowd.  After all, why would officials be preemptively trying to placate the crowd?  Perhaps they sensed that things were on the verge of turning ugly.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that such “unanticipated proclamations” could have heightened the overall level of suspicion and agitation within the crowd.

The bigger issue seemed to be the single gated entrance leading into the facility.  Not to mention the lack of security and police.  When the gate opened, the packed crowd grew frantic.  Pushing, shoving and so on.

Another possible contributing factor was the degree of slope in front of the gate, at the end of a “slanted” road.  The unusual configuration could have played a role.

Like most stampedes, the majority of victims were not trampled.  They suffocated during the crush.

This wasn’t the first human stampede.  And it certainly won’t be the last.  So here’s a suggestion.  In the aftermath, rather than focusing on pictures of sandals and articles of clothing…

Maybe the time has arrived to use more graphic illustrations.

Now will this solve the problem, preventing future stampedes?  Probably not.  But it does bring a grim reality to the forefront.  Politicians and city officials might feel additional pressure to be more proactive.  Focusing on safety and prevention as opposed to taking a more fatalistic approach… simply compensating the families who lost loved ones in a preventable tragedy.