Lessons learned in Japan regarding crowd crush

Yonhap via Reuters
A street in the Itaewon district in Seoul is seen full of people before a fatal incident in this image released by the Yonhap News Agency on Sunday.

People falling on top of each other in a tightly crowded space is thought to have significantly contributed to the tragedy that unfolded in Seoul on Saturday.

According to Toshihiro Kawaguchi, a professor of crowd safety at Kansai University, a crowd crush or surge could occur when there are more than 10 people within a square meter. If someone collapses in this kind of situation, other people may also fall, possibly resulting in the weight of several people pushing down on those underneath. This can cause a situation where it is difficult to breathe or move.

Japan has also seen similar incidents when huge crowds gather for events, some of which have resulted in a high number of casualties.

At a fireworks festival held by the city of Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture in July 2001, 11 people died and 183 others were injured in a crowd crush on a pedestrian bridge connecting a nearby train station to the beachside venue. Security arrangements were later found to have been inadequate, and officials from the city government, Akashi Police Station and a security company were convicted of professional negligence resulting in death.

In the wake of the tragedy, the National Police Agency in 2002 issued a notice to appoint staff to oversee crowd security at police headquarters nationwide. Event organizers have also taken measures such as increasing the number of security guards and securing traffic lines.

“After the incident in Akashi, security measures were reviewed, and no major accidents have since occurred in Japan, but accidents could always happen in crowded places,” Kawaguchi said. “To avoid being caught in such an accident, it is important not to go into places where you find it difficult to walk, bumping shoulders with other people.”