A stampede claimed the lives of 15 women in the Essaouira region of Morocco on November 19, 2017. Projections of the number seriously injured varied considerably in the town of Sidi Boulalam.
Generally speaking, Morocco is one of the wealthier countries on the African continent. Yet much of the rural population, recently struck by severe drought, has not fared as well economically. High unemployment is the norm. The daily wage hovers in the $3 range.
A crowd of less than a thousand had gathered at a food distribution center when the crush ensued. Recipients were being allotted $16 worth of flour, sugar and cooking oil. Regrettably, supplies were limited.
Poor organization and limited security were blamed for the tragedy. A government investigation will likely reach the same conclusion.
Takeaway: This might come across as a “simplistically harsh” assessment, but the underlying rationale for human stampedes is often rooted in the economic scope of supply and demand. Free food and fresh water can play an impactful role when a country has been afflicted by drought and famine. Sheer desperation, coupled with basic human survival instincts, often produces dire results.
Mammoth religious festivals and crowded sports venues are often the scenes of memorably historic, high profile stampedes. But it would be wise to acknowledge how tragedies, much like the one that unfolded in Morocco, are growing in frequency.
Careful planning can help to mitigate potential disasters. However, the fundamental laws of supply and demand will always have the last word. And every so often, let’s just say an outcome can be particularly… unyielding.
I often remark about how real-time cellular notifications and social media offers for free food could have serious consequences in crowded venues. Whether it be clam chowder in Boston, jambalaya in New Orleans or cheese steaks in Philly. In the new wireless age, I doubt everyone in the stadium would be able to discern the likelihood of such a seemingly innocuous and tempting offer… actually being a deliberate hoax. One designed to manipulate crowd behavior and spread in an exponentially decentralized fashion… sparking an unanticipated crowd surge and potentially resulting in a deadly stampede. Just something to consider. Hey, if it’s too good to be true, it’s likely untrue. Regrettably, nobody’s allowed to acknowledge and game plan for hypothetically negative outcomes… even if they’re generic and easily executed.
One day, society will step up and have a meaningful discussion about these transformational flaws regarding venue safety and security. Unfortunately, if history is any indication, this will likely happen in the aftermath of a preventable tragedy.