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Photo: Itaewon Tragedy
Itaewon, Seoul in South Korea has been a hot spot for celebrating Halloween for decades, and the lifted COVID restrictions resulted in a turnout of over 100,000 attendees to the area. The result of little to no crowd control eventually led to the terrible events causing the deaths of at least 156 victims and the injuring of over 100, many of those individuals remain in critical condition. The tragic events in Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea have caused a lot of confusion to news readers, as many are unaware of the cause of the nightmare event. Many speculated stampeding while others guessed the mass usage of drugs, but statements from survivors and knowledgeable viewers brought to light what exactly happened. When crowd densities reach critical levels of overcrowding, a phenomenon named “crowd crushing” occurs. There was no stampeding involved; it wasn’t attendees being trampled that caused their passing, but rather the crushing from all sides of them that led to their asphyxiation whilst standing upright from crowd crushing.
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Many aren’t aware of the existence of crowd crushing. The most popular cases of crowd crushing resulting in fatalities consist of the Hillsborough disaster and the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas. Many dangers arise with the spawning of a crowd crush. Crowd crushing leaves its victims powerless and trapped for extended periods of time.
Itaewon – The Anatomy of a Crowd Crush and Crowd Collapse
A crowd is considered dense when it reaches 3 people per square meter. Any increase from that point on raises the level of danger the crowd poses. As the number per square meter increases, the less freedom those within the crowd have with their arms and shoulders. When a crowd density reaches 6 people per square meter, those in that crowd lose the ability to move. As the streets of Itaewon are narrow, the crowd density was well over 6 people per square meter, many saying that it grew to 12 people per square meter, which is 3 more people than the point of crowd crushing asphyxiation. The overdense crowd left victims unable to excuse themselves from the crowd.
Crowd crushes are frightening and mostly inescapable conditions that leave its victims unable to do anything to exit besides wait. In a crowd crush of that density, the crowd begins to act like a fluid, no longer moving in the desired direction of its victims, but moving as a wave of pressure following the direction of pressure. With the pressure of thousands and thousands of human bodies pressing against all four sides of those in the crowd, asphyxiation happens from the lack of space allowing people to expand their lungs, ultimately leading to serious injury from oxygen loss, cardiac arrest, or suffocation. One of the scariest parts of crowd crushes is that screaming won’t help, as the sounds of all the packed members of the crowd wash out the sound, resulting in the inability to hear anything from as far as 4 meters.
What You Can Do Before and When You’re in a Crowd Crush
Crowd crushes happen exponentially as nobody expects it when it happens. The best thing to do for a crowd crushing event is to know the signs of one coming and get out of the area before it happens. First, people should look for crowd control officers once they feel the area is starting to get a little dense. The number one cause and fault of crowd crushes is a lack of crowd control. As seen from the many statements of survivors on TikTok and Twitter, the extreme lack of crowd directing and emergency services on standby were incredibly apparent. The next hint would be if contact is starting to be made on more than one side of the crowd members. If in a crowd and people’s backs and fronts are simultaneously making contact, it serves as a sign that members of the crowd could soon lose their volition as just a couple more people per square meter brings it to critical levels.
If unable to exit before a crowd crushing begins, it is important to know that conserving energy is one of the top priorities in staying conscious. To do so, people are told to follow the flow of the crowd. Additionally, people must lock their arms rigidly in front of them, guarding their rib cage and leaving enough space for their lungs to expand upon inhalations. Although this is never the intention of anyone in the nightmarish event, it is crucial to do everything in one’s power to not fall down. As the crowd is extremely dense and packed, people’s bodies will be searching for space to expel pressure. If anyone falls down, it’ll result in a domino effect of the crowd collapsing into the direction of the open space; this is called a crowd collapse. Crowd collapsing is even more fatal and agonizing, as it is the event of hundreds to thousands of human body weights piling onto a focal point of direction. Unfortunately, a crowd collapse did happen during the Itaewon incident after someone in the area fell down, supposedly from crowd pushing.
The pileup of hundreds to possibly a thousand people were tragically trapped for hours before a number of authorities arrived to aid. With this specific alley in Itaewon, it happened to be on a slope, which unfortunately left the back of the crowd unable to see ahead and continue pushing the crowd forward. Unknowingly, the crowd pushing in the back was exerting thousands of pounds of pressure on the front of the crowd that was piled up, acting as an immovable wall as it was built from the weight of hundreds of human bodies onto the point of the fallen person. Ultimately, this resulted in the injury and passing of many from crushing asphyxiation. If found in a crowd collapse, it is advised for people to lock their arms in front, protecting the ribs and creating space for lungs, and assuming a strong fetal position. This will create a space to breathe and collect air to avoid suffocation.
Condolences to the Bereaving Friends and Families
It is human nature to find the fault of the issue, and it is easy to blame members of the crowd for the problem. People must realize the fear, panic, and unawareness of the crowd along with their inability to see and hear the signs of danger. What is to blame is the lack of preparation for the site from the officials. From the lack of crowd control to no enforcing capacity limits, this tragedy that took the lives of 156 and counting is the fault of the officials that had no emergency services and authorities at the predictably busy event. Crowd control and capacity limits should be sternly enforced for the safety of everyone. Hollywood Insider sends its condolences to the victims, their friends, their families, and to South Korea.
By Nino Vongphachanh
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