153 people were killed during a Seoul Halloween celebration on Saturday by a crowd surge.
South Korea is in mourning today after at least 153 festival goers were killed and 133 others were injured by a surging crowd during a Halloween celebration in Seoul.
The outdoor Halloween festival was attended by over 100,000 people. A cause as yet unknown led a large crowd to surge down a narrow alleyway near a popular hotel. Survivors report that once people began, “falling like dominos,” near the front, victims became trapped beneath the swelling crush.
Experts are examining safety rules and investigating in the aftermath of the terrible accident but few answers have emerged thus far.
The incident marks the latest and most deadly in a series of similar events.
In Washington, D.C., a neighborhood of patrons at outdoor cafes became frightened by reports of gunshots in the area and began running. Several people were injured, though it could have been much worse.
Large-scale sporting events, religious festivals, and concerts — including Houston’s Astroworld Festival last year — even black Friday sales have resulted in tragedy when crowding leads to people being trampled or suffocated by the swelling mass of people.
“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul,” said President Joe Biden in a statement. “We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and send our best wishes for a quick recovery to all those who were injured. The alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or more vital — and the ties between our people are stronger than ever. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time.”
Like the President, we all grieve with the people of Seoul and the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy. With the holiday season upon us, now is a great time to review basic crowd safety with your family.
Be aware of your surroundings.
When you arrive at a location or venue and are making your way to the bar or restroom, be sure to make note of all exits and any areas where walkways narrow. Narrow exit areas and enclosed, chute-like walkways can become dangerous very quickly and are responsible for many of the deaths which occur as a result of crowd crushing or stampedes.
Get off the X.
In “A Navy Seal’s Secrets to Surviving Any Disaster,” former Navy SEAL and survivalist Cade Courtley teaches readers a refrain common in the military world of elite soldiers: “Get off the X.”
The “X” is the danger zone, the path of the hurricane, the dark parking garage, or the swelling crowd.
“Don’t stay engaged if you can escape,” Courtley instructs even the most battled-hardened and highly trained elite soldiers in the world. It’s the lesson he applies to everything from escaping natural disasters to avoiding street fights: “The moment you have an opening, take it and leave the scene.”
Keep an eye on the crowd size.
“Personally, for me it’s: ‘Can I put my hands on my hips comfortably without touching anyone?’” veteran festival producer Amy Cox told CNN about crowd safety.
It may be a reasonably good guideline for determining if a crowd is becoming unsafe.
When standing in a crowd, if you are shoulder-to-shoulder with the total stranger standing next to you, chances are good that you are in a crowd of 5 people per square meter, approaching 6. At that density, a reactive crowd could become dangerous. To be safe, move to an area of lower density.
Human behavior is usually the wild card.
In Indonesia earlier this month, 125 people died and hundreds were injured during a deadly crowd-crush incident at a soccer stadium.
Thousands of people tried to escape through exits built to accommodate only two at a time after police officers used tear gas to try and disperse a small crowd of unruly fans.
In a crowd, one person’s poor judgment can have catastrophic consequences.
Obey your instincts.
In “The Gift of Fear,” author Gavin de Becker reminds readers of the importance of obeying our own powerful, intrinsic survival instincts.
If you are in a crowd and start feeling unsafe, trust your intuition and move to higher ground immediately.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)