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A physical rule dictates when the crowd turns to death, as in Seoul, South Korea, where 154 . died

A physical rule dictates when the crowd turns to death, as in Seoul, South Korea, where 154 . died

The belongings of the victims are seen at the scene of a deadly stampede during the Halloween Festival on October 30, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea.Photo by Chung Seung-joon/Getty Images

  • Halloween in Seoul ended with at least 154 deaths after the streets became very crowded.

  • An expert told Insider that this phenomenon, called crowding, goes back to basic physics.

  • If a limit of about seven people per square yard is exceeded, things can quickly turn deadly.

One expert told Insider that crowd rushes – the deadly phenomenon that has killed more than 150 people in South Korea – can be explained by simple physics.

At least 154 people were killed in Seoul on Saturday when a Halloween street party drove a crowd to death.

The Guardian reported that the incident took place in Seoul’s busy Itaewon district, a popular nightlife spot that attracted tens of thousands of people on Saturday.

According to Reuters, there was not a single event planned. But crowds of bars and nightclubs poured into a narrow, sloping alley that connects a subway station and a main street.

The map shows the location of the alley in Itaewon compared to the subway station.

A map of the Itaewon neighborhood in Seoul shows the location of the alley.Google Maps / Insider

Sometime after ten in the evening, the street filled up beyond its capacity. Social media accounts of the night, compiled by Reuters, reported that people near the top of the alley lost their feet and fell into the crowds below, triggering a deadly crowd.

The tragedy prompted national mourning in South Korea and questions about whether more could be done to prevent it.

Mehdi Moussed, a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin who studies crowd dynamics, spoke to Insider about when crowding becomes deadly.

“Most people are unaware of the danger,” he said, noting that people should be better educated as cities become more dense and large crowds become more widespread.

Emergency service personnel in a trapped alley in Itaewon district where a stampede occurred on Halloween on October 30, 2022.

Emergency services are seen in the alley the crowd fell into, pictured here on October 30, 2022.Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

Crowds act like waves

The mass impulse is driven by a simple principle. If a group of people becomes dense enough—more than six or seven people per square yard—the crowd begins to act like a liquid.

At this point, the people inside largely lose the ability to control their movement.

If someone is paid, he will pay his neighbor, who will fall on his neighbor, and so on.

“Then this movement is transmitted,” Moussed said. It’s a bit like a ripple through the water, as these movements spread, they get bigger

The pressure of a wave can be too extreme for people in a crowd to bear, especially if they are pushed into an obstacle. As seen in Seoul, it can be fatal.

“These waves are very dangerous because people can press against walls and also against each other. Whenever two waves cross, people can feel pressure from both sides,” an assistant said.

What to do if stuck in a crush

In the vast majority of cases, crowded events will be safe. But Moussaeed listed some things that could help if things turned dangerous.

The main thing is awareness: if you feel like you’re too crowded, you’re probably right. Get away quickly to a place of less intensity. This can protect you and relieve stress from others.

“If a small portion of people start doing that, it lowers the intensity and solves the problem,” he said.

Once the crowd reaches that critical threshold, a thrust wave can form very quickly. Musaed said: So it is a state of survival.

“If you feel the thrust, don’t try to resist. Go with it and keep your balance.”

Do your best to stay standing. If someone fell, it would cause a wave of people to fall. Those at the bottom of the heap are more likely to be crushed by the weight of the objects above them.

Raise your arms against your rib cage like a boxer to make it easier to breathe. Wave pressure can lead to fainting and falls.

Don’t struggle against the influx of the crowd. If you step back, the pressure in the system will increase, which will make the situation worse in the next two seconds or minutes, an assistant said.

Aerial view of a large outdoor platform with four square quarters for attendees

Drone footage of the empty stage hosting the 2021 Astroworld Festival where people died due to the rush of crowds.Nathan Frandino/Reuters

Information is the key

This isn’t the first time the crowd has been killed. Past examples include Germany’s Love Parade in 2010 where 18 people died and last year’s Travis Scott Astroworld Festival in Houston where eight people died.

With such events, proper planning can reduce risk by ensuring that too many people do not meet at once.

But Masoud said the event in Seoul was different because it was a spontaneous gathering in the streets. It was very difficult to prepare for it.

According to Reuters, authorities expected a crowd of around 100,000, but they don’t think the area requires more planning than a regular Halloween holiday.

“A lot of people gather to celebrate Halloween every year,” an unnamed woman told Reuters as she lived nearby.

“But there was a lot more last night, incomparably more than it was before COVID,” she said.

As the world’s population grows and more and more people are crammed into urban areas, an assistant said, this can happen more often.

“The easy solution is to let people know that crowds can be dangerous.”

Read the original article on Business Insider


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