The importance of crowd control is never clearer than after a stampede, when a mass of people, usually driven into a panic by something, rushes toward something else. A large throng in a tight space, with little room to move, can quickly take on a life of its own, as history has demonstrated time after time.
Some of the worst stampedes in history have taken place during the Hajj, the annual Muslim holy time when pilgrims are meant to make their way to Mecca. The huge crowds often overwhelm primitive local structures like bridges and tunnels, and when fears and rumors start to make their way through the mass of humanity, tragedy often follows. The 2015 stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia is an example of this, with too many people in too small a space, all moving too quickly.
But disasters in Saudi Arabia are far from the only times crowds have panicked and trampled each other. Soccer games, festivals, holidays, nightclubs, and theaters have all seen stampedes, usually due to poor security, lack of regulation, cheap materials going up in flames, and the human tendency to try to go back through the door we entered from. Maybe the worst human panic of all time happened in China - 4,000 people died in a terrifying stampede.
Because of the human panics on this list, safety regulations in the United States are some of the toughest in the world - but this isn't always the case. And it wasn't in previous decades here, either.
Here are 23 of the deadliest human stampedes in recent history.
2015 Mina Stampede
At least 720 Muslim pilgrims died in a stampede during the "stoning the devil" ritual in the final days of the 2015 Hajj in September. It happened in a tent city a few miles from Mecca. The cause of the crowd surge that ignited the stampede is unknown.
A stampede during the 2010 Khmer Water Festival in Cambodia killed 347 and injured over 750 people. Thousands of festival-goers had crowded onto a tiny spit of land in the Tonle Sap River, with people using a small bridge to both enter and exit the island. The exact cause of the stampede is unknown, but a crush started on both ends, with hundreds in the middle trampled and suffocated. Hundreds more were killed or injured by downed electrical wires, pulled down by panicking bridge-goers.
On August 31, 2005, around one million pilgrims were marching toward the Al Kadhimiya Mosque, located in Baghdad. To reach the shrine, the crowd had to cross the Al-Aaimmah bridge over the Tigris river. The mass of people was already tense thanks to a mortar attack earlier that day, so all it took to touch off a panic was a man pointing a finger at another, claiming he was wearing explosives. A massive crush resulted, with thousands rushing toward the closed bridge. A gate at the front was opened, but not one at the back, meaning the crowd had nowhere to go. People were trampled, crushed against the sides of the bridge, or fell into the river. At least 953 people were crushed to death or drowned.
Yet another "stoning of the devil" stampede on the Jamarat Bridge took place in 2004, with 250 pilgrims killed and over 250 injured. An obstruction of personal belongings caused a human backup, and when pilgrims tried to get around it, a crush started, trampling people in front of it.