Page views surge at Hyogo Pref. police web page on crowd control

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mourners pray at a memorial monument in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, on July 21, the 21th anniversary of a deadly pedestrian bridge accident in the city.

The number of page views of a crowd control manual created by the Hyogo prefectural police and posted on the internet surged to about 43,000 in October, more than 250 times the monthly average.

The manual was drawn up based on the lessons learned from a deadly pedestrian bridge accident that occurred in Akashi in the prefecture in 2001.

Interest is likely growing over measures to prevent crowd crushes from occurring in the wake of the recent tragedy in downtown Seoul involving Halloween revelers in the popular Itaewon district.

In the Akashi accident, 11 people were killed and 183 others were injured, some seriously, when a crowd crush occurred on a pedestrian bridge that was thronged with spectators of a fireworks display.

A senior police officer at the scene was indicted and given a prison sentence for negligence of security.

Typically, the organizer of an event in which a large number of people would gather was responsible for ensuring safety. Following the deadly Akashi incident, however, the National Police Agency instructed police stations across the country to appoint a “head officer in charge” to manage crowd control measures, marking a turning point in crowd control in Japan.

The manual was created by the Hyogo prefectural police in December 2002. The 120-page manual comprises six chapters, including “the threat posed by a crowd” and “from the planning stage to the implementation of crowd control measures.” It is posted on the Hyogo prefectural police home page.

The manual points out that the longer people are stuck in a crowd at a standstill, the more frustrated and forceful they will become.

People were jostled in all directions on the Akashi pedestrian bridge, causing crowd collapse.

Based on the incident, the manual notes the importance of preventing the flows of people from colliding and implementing crowd management tactics such as maintaining one-way traffic, having security personnel form a human wall to guide the crowd and using rope to separate people. The manual also recommends restricting the entry of people at entrances to reduce the density of the crowd.

According to the Hyogo prefectural police, the number of page views on its website jumped to 43,367 in October, vastly exceeding the monthly average of about 170. Most of the page views are believed to have occurred from Oct. 29, the day of the deadly crowd crush in Itaewon, through Oct. 31.

The Itaewon incident revealed insufficient crowd control by the authorities, as security guards were not dispatched to the scene, for example.

On Twitter, there has been a succession of posts tweeted by people about the manual, saying, “It shows how bad the conditions were for the incident in Itaewon to be triggered,” or requesting, “Please have it translated and spread around the world.”

The officer in charge of the crowd management office at the Hyogo prefectural police said: “The manual is filled with police officers’ thoughts that ‘we must not let such an incident happen again.’ We have mixed feelings about the fact that the number of page views of the manual has increased in the wake of the Seoul incident, but we hope that our manual will be of use in preventing harm.”