Human Stampedes and Crushing Deaths at the Hajj

Crowd around the Kaaba
Courtesy of Bluemangoa2z from Wikimedia Commons

The Hajj is a very famous and widespread pilgrimage that is required by Islam. If you are Muslim, able-bodied and can afford to make your way to Mecca, you must go. It is your duty to your religion and your god. With more than one billion Islamic people on the Earth today, it is not surprising that things get a bit crowded at the holy place during the four days of Hajj every year. Unfortunately, in the fervor to throw stones, kiss/touch a stone and do other obligatory rituals, people are crushed and thousands have reportedly died over the years.

A field in Kansas
Courtesy of FEMA
Several million adherents are expected each year at the Hajj. Thanks to the inherent issues in controlling such a crowd and the inability thus far to create structures that would support such a crowd and corral it in useful ways, collapses and stampede-like incidents are common. In fact, if you do not want to be trampled to death or die in a ramp or overland bridge collapse, this is about the worst place you can go. Sure, millions get away unscathed, but you are far less likely to be trampled by people in say a field in Kansas.

To be fair, attempts have been made to make the journey a much safer one. They are just only as effective as a massive crowd of religiously moved people allow them to be. You can only do so much to stem human crushing behavior when the people involved are motivated by an obligation they feel they owe a god.