December 10, 2015

"The September stampede during the hajj in Saudi Arabia killed at least 2,411 pilgrims... three times the number of deaths acknowledged by the kingdom three months later."

According to a new AP count, "based on state media reports and officials' comments from 36 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj." The official Saudi number is still 769. The linked article, in the NYT,  says 2,411 makes this year's disaster "the deadliest in the history of the annual pilgrimage." The previous high was a 1990 stampede that killed 1,426.

So "deadliest in the history of" the hajj, but have there been stampedes — "crush" is really the better word — that have killed more? I don't think so. According to Wikipedia's "List of human crushes," which includes crushes in all settings — including the 1903 fire in the Iroquois Theatre and the 1979 Who concert —the 1990 crush was the previous high. The second highest was only 603 (in the Iroquois Theatre fire) or the Kumbh Mela stampede (at a festival celebrating independence in India) which killed 500 to 800.

So the 1990 hajj crush was already almost twice as big as any other crush in history, and this year's crush was almost twice again as big.

CORRECTION: I did not look closely enough at the separate chart for the 19th century on Wikipedia's list of human crushes. There is, in fact, one more crush, in 1896, and it was larger than the 1990 Mecca stampede: the Khodynka Tragedy, which killed 1389:
Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia on 26 May 1896. Four days later, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. In the area of one town square, theaters, 150 buffets for distribution of gifts, and 20 pubs were built for the celebrations. Near the celebration square was a field that had a ravine and many gullies. On the evening of 29 May, people who had heard rumours of coronation gifts from the tsar began to gather in anticipation. The gifts which everybody was to receive were a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread, and a commemorative cup.

At about 5 o'clock in the morning of the celebration day, several thousand people (estimates reached 500,000) were already gathered on the field. Rumours spread among the people that there was not enough beer or pretzels for everybody, and that the enamel cups contained a gold coin. A police force of 1,800 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured. Most of the victims were trapped in the ditch and were trampled or suffocated there. Despite the tragedy, the program of festivities continued as planned elsewhere on the large field, with many people unaware of what had happened. The Tsar and his wife made an appearance in front of the crowds on the balcony of the Tsar's Pavilion in the middle of the field around 2 p.m. By that time the traces of the incident had been cleaned up.
Correction, part 2: The Russian crush was less than the 1990 Mecca crush. I miscorrected!

60 comments:

David Begley said...

2,977 killed on September 11, 2001.

What is wrong with those people?

Mike Sylwester said...

Nikita Khrushchev said that at least 100 people were trampled to death at the funeral of Joseph Stalin.

Shouting Thomas said...

Second cousin marriage.

Ann Althouse said...

"2,977 killed on September 11, 2001."

Yes, I thought to 9/11 too as I was writing this post. It helped me visualize the scope of the disaster. But what is important here is that the government of Saudi Arabia is hosting an annual event where this potential for disaster is completely well known and inadequate provisions are made, in part because people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues.

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven."

walter said...

911 notwithstanding, it's been a banner year for Islam. Yeah,..that's too harsh, I know.....

walter said...


Blogger Mike Sylwester said...

Nikita Khrushchev said that at least 100 people were trampled to death at the funeral of Joseph Stalin.
--

Pikers!

traditionalguy said...

There are a lot of those outrageous excuses for not addressing a known safety issue going around lately, coming mostly out of the White House.

Sebastian said...

"people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues." But we all know that people don't even believe what they profess to believe, so something else must be going on.

PB said...

Will Myth Busters show how to survive a human stampede? Out of service to the Muslim community, of course.

chickelit said...

Ann Althouse quoted...Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven.

Is this why orderly queues are such living hells?

David Begley said...

Ann's comment further highlights that Saudi Arabia is the worst country in the world.

Tax OPEC oil tomorrow.

Ambrose said...

As the article notes, a large number of Iranians were among the victims of this tragedy. Iran has been using this to make the case that the Saudi regime is not an effective custodian of the holy sites. This may or may not be true - but be careful of misinformation from both sides in what is becoming more a political debate than an honest investigation.

Monkeyboy said...

Nikita Khrushchev said that at least 100 people were trampled to death at the funeral of Joseph Stalin.
I was thinking of that too. The film "The Inner Circle" ends with the crush at the funeral.

Tank said...

To quote a certain country song, everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go now.

policraticus said...

which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues.

That is true only if you believe that those who die on the Hajj don't go to heaven.

mezzrow said...

"Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven."

How very convenient.

traditionalguy said...

The Islam Jihad business model is very lucrative for its Saudi owners. The proceeds were used to fund the Bin Laden Family and thousands of base camps spotted strategically throughout targeted Europe and America under the cover of being religion Mosques.

mezzrow said...

Second cousin marriage.

If Titus saw my cousin Susan, he'd think about going straight for just about 30 minutes or so.

Just saying.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...in part because people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues.

Unless, of course, it is true. In which case it is outrageous that they don't do more to make the hajj less safe.

And who are you to tell them the correct interpretation of a religion you don't even believe?

Hagar said...

Inshallah is an excuse for most anything.

MadisonMan said...

the government of Saudi Arabia is hosting an annual event where this potential for disaster is completely well known and inadequate provisions are made, in part because people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues.

My assumption is that the person in charge of safety during the Hajj is some idiot cousin of the King. (Or some other relative). You can't criticize the person in charge without criticizing the King.

Ergo, no criticism.

mccullough said...

But let's keep handing out 50,000 (of the 500,000) student visas a year to Saudis.

The House of Saud is despicable, second only to the Wahhabists they have let run the legal and educational systems in Saudi Arabia. If ISIS actually were its own country, it would look like Saudi Arabia

Curious George said...

That's a shame.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

1389<1426.

No coffee yet, so feel free to delete the comment if I'm confused or if others have pointed this out.

Achilles said...

Islam needs a reformation to continue as a modern religion. The PC idiots who are enabling it are doing Islam no favors.

MikeR said...

"Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on crowd control and safety measures for those attending the annual five-day pilgrimage". Billions - how? Truth is, I don't have clear what exactly needs to be done to protect vast numbers of people in these kinds of situations. Easy to blame them, of course.

Hey Skipper said...

Clearly, this is Allah's will.

Richard Dolan said...

"... people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues."

So it would seem. But that kind of judgmental approach to the oddities of fanatical Islamic practices is kind of Trump-y, wouldn't you say?

Michael McClain said...

The LibCong's favorite religion.

Humperdink said...

After the next election (cough), the video will be released and they will come clean, grovel and apologize w/tears. Well, maybe not.

holdfast said...

Second First cousin marriage.

FIFY

walter said...

But then..perhaps this type of reassurance is why the US military employs chaplains.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Professor Rasheed said that officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage — which a Muslim is expected to make at least once in a lifetime — goes to heaven."

Sounds good to me. In fact, we should be dropping leaflets all over the Middle East saying there will be free beer and pretzels in Mecca.

Fernandinande said...

AA: ...this potential for disaster is completely well known and inadequate provisions are made,

Gosh darn those libertarians!

in part because people are told that they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj, which is an outrageous excuse for not dealing with the safety issues.

What if the "go to heaven" part is true?

David Begley said...

North Korea is the worst country in the world, but Saudi Arabia is second. North Korea, for the most part, keeps its dysfunction to itself.

Char Char Binks said...

That's three times better than I thought!

Virgil Hilts said...

I was going to write "this is why they don't have WalMart stores in Saudi Arabia" but turns out they do. Just no Black Fridays.

john said...

OTOH, 2,411 people going to heaven at once would severely tax the latter's personnel management agencies, namely how to supply this incoming crush with 173,592 virgins.

Virgil Hilts said...

Ann, if their religion says that they "they'll go to heaven if they die during the hajj" why do you think allowing the stampedes is outrageous. Are you saying that their religious beliefs are stupid and silly? I think as long as young children are not killed in these stampedes then its analogous to Christian Scientists refusing medicine and relying on prayer to cure a disease. We let adults make that decision for themselves, but not for their children. Why not congratulate the pilgrims for getting to go to heaven instead of implying that that their religious concepts are stupid.

Fernandinande said...

Virgil Hilts said...
I was going to write "this is why they don't have WalMart stores in Saudi Arabia" but turns out they do.


In Saudi Arabia, WalMart stores have been ordered to build a gender separation wall – a mechitzah for all practical purposes – to divide men and women in the workplace.
"The new rule, issued by Labor Minister Adel Faqih, was confirmed by Abdullatif al-Sheikh, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Al Arabiya news network stated as reported by Arutz 7.

The separation barrier is required to be a minimum shiur of 5 feet, 3 inches."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Truth is, I don't have clear what exactly needs to be done to protect vast numbers of people in these kinds of situations.

People pressure builds by people leaning forward toward the people in front of them. If each person is leaning such that they add 5 lbs of their weight to the force of the push on their back, then a line 20 people long puts 100 lbs of pressure on the people at the front. If the front has a chokepoint, such as a doorway, that 100 lbs is enough pressure to prevent many people from breathing.

The key is that the pressure can only build in a straight line. Serpentine the line, and the pressure only builds on the straight segments, and drops to zero around the turns.

Add to that shade and water so that people are not desperate to get through as soon as possible.

If you need to do more, add some sort of time-ticket system, where when you arrive in Mecca you schedule a time slot for your visit. That could spread the people out and manage the crowd a bit better.

William said...

God so loves the people who make the Hajj that He hastens to draw them to his bosom.......God is not a disinterested observer in the affairs of the world. You will note that neither the Vatican nor Tel Aviv sit upon trillions of dollars worth of oil reserves. These things don't happen by chance. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

MikeR said...

"The key is that the pressure can only build in a straight line. Serpentine the line, and the pressure only builds on the straight segments, and drops to zero around the turns."
I hear you, IIB, but I don't know if you're thinking through the numbers. The "line"? What kind of a line holds several million people? How wide? (A hundred people wide would mean the line is like 20,000 people long - miles long.) Are there walls on the sides to keep them in this serpentine line? If there are, make the line wide enough and you can start crushing people against those side walls.

I was once in the Bay To Breakers run in San Fransisco, ~100,000 people. We filled a city street and I have no idea how long the group was. When the race started, presumably some real runners at the front started running. Where I was, twenty minutes passed _before we took one step_. Then we started shuffling forward. A long time passed before you could walk at any speed. A few idiots began running, weaving through the crowd. One crossed in front of me and WHAM - smacked into a parking meter and fell. We moved past him and I hope he wasn't trampled. I had time to think "How remarkable", and WHAM - another guy did the exact same thing.
After the "race", we wanted to get back to our cars, left near the starting line. Imagine a hundred thousand people trying to catch a bus. We eventually just picked a direction and start walking. After walking a couple of dozen blocks we caught a bus, filled to bursting with people like us.
I later heard that a couple of people had heart attacks and died. It wasn't possible to get an ambulance to them in time.

walter said...

"Serpentine the line, and the pressure only builds on the straight segments, and drops to zero around the turns."

Will lemmings do that?

Anonymous said...

Full on religious nuttery.

lgv said...

But they go to heaven, right?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

How many will die in the Trump stampede?

Jeff Boulier said...

I think I recommended it three months ago, but Amanda Ripley's "The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes -- and Why" has an interesting chapter on stampedes. This includes a long interview with a guy who worked with the Saudis (following the 1990 stampede) to fix some of the issues surrounding this very event.

Bill said...

Type 'Mecca construction' into an image search engine to see what's become of the place. Numerous holy sites have been leveled to accommodate luxury hotels, etc. It has the gigantism of Vegas, but without the glitz. Dull-grey concrete megastructures everywhere, poured by Binladin Ltd.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

MikeR said...

What kind of a line holds several million people?

Right now, the kind that crushes a couple thousand people to death. With a bit of thought, one that doesn't crush anyone. :)

How wide? (A hundred people wide would mean the line is like 20,000 people long - miles long.)

Instead of one line a hundred people wide, why not ten lines ten people wide each? Or twenty lines? Or forty?

None of this changes the throughput, or the wait times. Yes, it will take up some space, and cost some money. But it is not difficult, nor hugely expensive.

mikee said...

Christians believe, pretty much across all sects, that one must earn a place in a heavenly afterlife via grace, good works, forgiveness, a sin free life, or other individual means. We Catholics don't go to heaven if we get run over by the Popemobile, for example, without individually earning our place there.

Thus suicide is a sin for all Christian faithful.

Is a Muslim person less, equally, or more likely to achieve paradise after death by dying during Hajj, or by dying while simultaneously killing infidels, or by dying from a Russian bomb while sitting in a barracks in Homs, Syria, waiting for the next beheadings?

Is there a well-known absolute means of achieving paradise by dying in a certain manner?

If so, why are there Muslims still alive? Don't they have strength in their faith?

I suspect the vast majority of Muslims

MikeR said...

"Instead of one line a hundred people wide, why not ten lines ten people wide each? Or twenty lines? Or forty?" I hear the idea, but only if you never recombine them. Forty totally independent groups of people moving along forty paths through Mecca.

walter said...

"ne must earn a place in a heavenly afterlife via grace, good works, forgiveness, a sin free life, or other individual means. We Catholics don't go to heaven if we get run over by the Popemobile"

Well..perhaps excluding the unborn, infants and those with developmental disabilities.

rhhardin said...

Derbyshire is endearing in always pronouncing both j's in hajj. Also both x's in Foxx.

Freeman Hunt said...

Mecca, where you don't need a watch to tell the time.

seulgaist said...

On the subject of all the Saudi student visas....

I've been the designer of a newsletter for high school college counselors for 25 years. A major subject concerns international students. Administrative bloat in state universities as well as other bullshit forces them to seek out-of-state students. Youngsters from the oil-rich states and newly-rich sectors of China are heavily recruited at full freight. Often, they quickly abandon the dorms for higher-end housing in town, easing overcrowding and building up the local economy.

International students are a racket to pay for diversity counselors and other nonsense.

Milwaukie Guy

paminwi said...

Who cares?

JamesB.BKK said...

@ Achilles: Perhaps it is undergoing reformation but just not in the direction some might assume a reformation would run. As you likely know already, the Ottomans, while controlling most of the territory and controlling the vassal states that were not colonies of European powers, allowed Christians and Jews to live in all the places they have been and are being erased from since end of WW1. They also allowed their white slaves to have businesses and property.

JamesB.BKK said...

To be complete, Non-white slaves could also own property under Ottoman rule.