The Worst Human Stampedes

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.

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