On March 9, 1953, thousands of people showed up in the Red Square of Moscow for the funeral service of Joseph Stalin. During the ceremony, there were multiple speeches given in his honor, and there was a moment of silence. Then bells chimed from the Kremlin Tower. Horns and sirens wailed, and the soldiers gave a 21-gun salute. After the silence, a military band began playing the Soviet National Anthem, and they began a parade through the square. Meanwhile, similar services were being held in other parts of the USSR including China, Mongolia and North Korea. But the crowd was so huge during this funeral, that it caused people to be crushed in the stampede. There were an estimated 109 people who perished that day in the Russian Red Square.
On February 3, 1954, a festival of Kumbh Mela was held in Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh state in India. It was estimated that 4 to 5 million pilgrims arrived for this festival. This was unprecedented, because more people than usual were out celebrating after India’s independence. The trouble began when the massive crowd broke through a barrier that was meant to separate the audience from a procession of holy men who were walking in a procession. Once the barriers broke down, this resulted in a stampede for some reason. The body count varies drastically depending on the source. Somewhere between 350 to 800 people passed, and up to 2,000 people were injured. Believe it or not, Kumbh Mela stampedes happened for multiple years, claiming dozens of lives. But 1954 was the year with the most lives lost.
The Seoul station Crush of 1960 occurred two days before the Lunar New Year, when many people were returning to their hometowns. About 3,900 people, more than three times the average crowd, flocked to the ticket gate. Over 200 tickets were sold for a train with a capacity of just 80 people. As you can imagine, this was a disaster. A crowd of people tried to push themselves onto the train, and it caused the demise of 31 people.
On May 24, 1964, there was a soccer match between Peru and Argentina held in the stadium called Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru. This game attracted a crowd of 53,000 people. During the game, members of the audience became angry by one of the calls made by the referee. So angry fans began pouring out onto the soccer pitch. This caused security personnel to throw a can of tear gas into the crowd. Once the tear gas started pouring out into the crowds, many fans panicked and tried to run out of the stadium. The exits were down several flights of stairs. But at the bottom of the steps, doors made of corrugated steel were closed. Crowds kept pushing forward, which crushed people at the front who could not get out. A total of 328 people passed, but the fans who stayed in their seats were perfectly fine.
On January 2, 1971, a large crowd of 80,000 fans was gathered to watch an Old Firm football game at Ibrox Park Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Throughout the years, there had been multiple tragedies that took place at Ibrox Park where dozens of people perished, and it was a red flag that there were some serious safety concerns with the construction of the stadium. But one of the biggest disasters happened in 1971 when 66 people were crushed when fans were trying to leave the stadium. No one is sure how or why it happened, but most speculate that someone tripped on the steps when trying to leave the park, and it triggered a ripple effect of people getting crushed.
On June 23, 1968 in El Monumental, Argentina there was a tied 0-0 match between two soccer teams. There was a rush to leave the stadium, claiming the lives of 71 people in a stampede. No one is exactly sure what caused the panic, but some reports say that Boca Juniors fans were throwing burning River flags off the top tier of the stadium. When other fans saw literal fire falling from the sky, they panicked, and started a stampede. They attempted to exit Gate 12, but it was locked. And yet the crowd just kept coming, and pushing the sea of people forward until dozens were crushed. What makes this even more tragic is the fact that most of the people who perished were teenagers and young men. The average age of the victims was 19.
On May 29, 1985, soccer fans were gathered at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels to watch Liverpool versus Juventus. Before the game started, a group of drunk Liverpool fans began to rush the fence that separated them from the Juventus fans. The drunken fans wanted to start a riot, which caused many of the innocent Juventus fans to run in the opposite direction. This pressed them up against a concrete wall. The pressure of the crowd was so strong, it actually caused the wall to collapse, and many people escaped. A total of 39 people tragically passed, and over 600 were injured. Most of the victims were Italian Juventus fans. When the dust settled, many of the instigators of the riot were arrested, and 14 of those Liverpool fans were convicted of manslaughter. The incident has been called “the darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions”.
On April 15, 1989, football clubs Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were playing against one another at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. Before the game started, there was a huge crowd waiting outside of the turnstiles to get into the stadium. A police officer named David Duckenfield was trying to ease the crowd, so he ordered exit gate C to open. This accidentally had the opposite effect, because people began to crowd towards gate C, and it resulted in the human crush. A total of 97 fatalities and 766 injuries means that the Hillsborough Disaster has the highest death toll in British sporting history. This was considered an “accidental death”, but the families of the victims spent the next few decades trying to prosecute those responsible. In June 2017, six people were charged with offenses including manslaughter and misconduct.
On July 3, 1990, a total of 1,426 people were suffocated and trampled in a tunnel near Mecca during the annual Muslim pilgrimage known as the Hajj. There is a tunnel called Al-Ma’aisim that is specifically used as a pedestrian walkway leading out of Mecca, heading towards Mina. Thousands of people were walking towards the Stoning of the Devil ritual, which was supposed to begin at 10AM. Unfortunately, a pedestrian bridge was bent, and many people started to fall off, landing on top of people exiting the tunnel. People began to panic when they saw people falling from the sky, and the tunnel filled up with over 5,000 people when the maximum capacity is just 1,000 people. This caused people to suffocate and become crushed. After the event, King Fahd declared that the event was “God’s will, which is above everything”.
On January 18, 1991, over 13,000 fans were packed into the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah to watch an AC/DC concert. When the concert started, fans standing in front of the stage started pushing one another to get closer to the front. This is actually very common at concerts, but for some reason, this night was different. At least 6 people were seriously injured, and two fell into a coma and later passed. One of the victims was a 14-year old named Curtis Child. This was his first concert ever, and it ended in fatality. Curtis’ family sued AC/DC and the concert promoters for $8 million. In the end, they settled with the families of the victims out of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
On January 1 of 1993, 20 lives were lost and 71 were injured in Hong Kong in the night club district on Lan Kwai Fong street. A crowd of 20,000 people rushed out of restaurants and clubs and surged into the streets so they could witness the countdown to midnight. This sounds very normal, because it happens every year on New Year’s Eve in New York City when people gather to see the ball drop. But there was something about that crowd in Hong Kong that night that caused a stampede to occur.
In January of 1999, over 200,000 pilgrims were gathered at the Hindu Sabarimala shrine in Kerala, India. They were all scrambling to witness what they called a “celestial light” that they could see in the distance. Thousands of men were standing on a hill. A landslide occurred from the sheer weight of those people standing on the hill. This caused a panic of people running away from the landslide, rushing down the hill as it fell, and people being buried alive. A total of 52 people perished in the tragedy. This wasn’t the first tragedy to happen to Hindu pilgrims, though. In 1996, more than 200 pilgrims perished when they were caught in a blizzard en route to the sacred Amarnath cave site in the northern state of Kashmir. After the tragedy, the owners of the temple admitted that their “celestial light” was actually man made.
The Throb nightclub disaster occurred on March 24, 2000. A panic broke out after the detonation of a tear gas canister at the Throb nightclub in Chatsworth, Durban in South Africa. Unlike most nightclubs, this night was filled with very young kids who went out dancing. There were 600 children from age 11-14 celebrating the end of term. The incident resulted in the demise of 13 children and 100 injured. The youngest to pass in the accident was just 11 years old. Vincent Pillay, Selvan Naidoo, and Sivanthan Chetty were accused for the incident. Naidoo and Pillay later admitted their involvement in the Durban High Court. Naidoo confessed that he put the canister behind the speakers after Pillay smuggled it inside the club. He said he was offered $1,000 and a job at Silver Slipper Club by Chetty, the manager there.