Another Haj stampede
It seems to be an almost inevitable part of the ritual of the Haj, despite all the efforts (and they've been considerable) of the Saudi government to prevent it: a stampede that kills large numbers of pilgrims.
I wrote this post back in September on the subject of stampedes. The following words are as relevant today as they were then:
On analysis, it turns out there are three main categories of venues that would appear to favor stampedes: the soccer stadium (or other large sporting event); the crowded nightclub in which a fire breaks out; and the religious pilgrimage. They all share the characteristics of having very large and moving groups of people packed into a restricted space...
The situation, as far as I can determine, is a bit analogous to the elements that go into a tsunami, strangely enough. That is, a huge and extremely powerful force (in the case of crowds, the moving people; in the case of tsunamis, the moving water) is initially spread out horizontally. Then, some sort of blockage impedes that horizontal movement and converts it, at least partially, into a vertical one...
It's no accident, either, that [this] stampede occurred on a bridge. Any sort of bottleneck or narrow passage through which the crowd must funnel itself represents a grave danger, because it potentially impedes that flow of horizontal movement.
As soon as I read the details of the present stampede, I suspected it had occurred on the very Saudi bridge that had been featured in my earlier post, here:
This website...is an example of a firm that specializes in...consulting with groups around the world to prevent similar disasters. For example, they were hired by the Saudis to supervise this year's Haj (in particular, they redesigned a certain bridge over which the crowd needed to pass). They seem to have been successful because, unlike some earlier Hajs, this one apparently went off without a hitch.
Unfortunately, this year was not so lucky. Despite an extensive redesign of the bridge and new rules to expand the hours people can participate (the latter negated by fundamentalist Wahabi clerics, however) 345 people are now tragically dead.