10 Deadliest Human Stampedes

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Crowds at sports, concerts and religious events can range from the hundreds to the tens of thousands. All it takes is a wave of pandemonium to rush through a crowd for a terrifying stampede to occur. And all it takes is poor planning on the part of event coordinators for a stampede to claim the lives of innocent bystanders. It doesn’t matter where you are — deadly human stampedes can occur anywhere where mass groups of people congregate, as our worldwide list shows.

10. The Lima Peru Stampede

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This tragedy occurred at the National Stadium in Lima, Peru in 1964. Fans were there to watch Argentina and Peru compete in an Olympic soccer qualifying match, where Peru would ultimately be beaten by Argentina on their own turf. The drama began just two minutes before the end of the game when a referee disallowed a Peruvian goal that could have cemented a victory for the home side. After the referee’s decision the stadium went insane. Fights broke out, and fans looking to exit the arena were stuck. Many bodies were found in the exits of the stadium, as those poor fans had hoped to remove themselves from the rush of violence. Terrible crowd and panic control measure decisions made by stadium officials exacerbated the situation and a terrible stampeded killed at least 300 fans and injured another 500 people.

9. The Hajj Stampede

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The hajj is the Muslim practice of taking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Unfortunately, hajj stampedes have occurred throughout history, resulting in thousands of deaths over the centuries. In 1990 a deadly stampede took the lives of 1,426 people, while in February 2004, 244 Muslim pilgrims were killed in stampedes on their way to Mecca. Most recently a stampede in 2006 took place during the last day of a historic ritual where devotees walk in droves past al-Jamarat, three stonewalls with religious symbolism. Bags of luggage fell from nearby buses, tripping pilgrims as others rushed forward. These tragic events are exacerbated by both the amount of people who attend the hajj every year as well as the poor state of the roads they follow on the way to Mecca.

8. The Ultra Arena Stampede

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In 2006, a stampede at a Filipino game show took over 70 lives. The Ultra Arena in Manila, now known as the Philsports Arena, was the site of the death of people who were trying to take part in the anniversary taping of a popular afternoon game show called “Wowowee.” As potential contestants entered the Arena an estimated 30,000 people pushed and shoved their way through the entrance, ultimately resulting in 73 deaths. Fans were there because the game show was known for giving away as much as two million Philippine dollars a day. Narrow exits, the absence of emergency exit plans and poor contingency plans were blamed for the stampede. Network executives for the game show were found liable for the tragedy.

7. The Station Nightclub Fire Stampede

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A 2003 stampede in New Jersey’s Station Nightclub resulted in the deaths of 96 people and the injury of 187. It was the result of a raging fire caused by the pyrotechnic light show of the rock band Great White. The fire and subsequent stampede is considered to be the deadliest in American history. The fire began when pyrotechnic cones were lit on stage — a shower of white flame from the cones ignited foam sound-proofing materials that were on the nearby walls. The fire immediately engulfed people, while other deaths resulted via stampede when people tried to use any means possible to escape the venue, including jumping out of windows. The tragedy was also aided by the smoke that quickly flooded the room, blinding people and blocking the exit signs.

6. The Chamunda Devi Stampede

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A 2008 stampede that claimed almost 200 lives took place at the Chamunda Devi Temple in India. Located at the top of a hill in Jodhupur, the temple attracts thousands of devotees celebrating the Navaratri festival. Early one morning some of the visitors began slipping down a slope on the hilltop, triggering the deadly stampede. The victims were mostly men, because the stampede occurred in the male portion of two parallel barricades that had been set up on the slope to allow people to walk up and down the hill. At the time this stampede was seen by many as being the worst temple stampede in history.

5. The 1913 Italian Hall Stampede

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This deadly stampede at the Italian Hall in what’s now called Calumet City, Michigan took place on Christmas Eve. Copper miners congregated to continue a strike that had been going since the summer. The miners and  their families were singing songs and exchanging presents when a stranger suddenly came into the hall and yelled “Fire!” The crowd of around 700 people immediately rushed towards a steep staircase hoping to escape. Sadly, someone fell, triggering a chain-reaction that blocked the stairwell — the building’s only exit. Though no fire actually existed at least 73 people were killed. No one knows who the instigator was, but the assumption is that he was a strikebreaker.

4. The Baghdad Stampede

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The 2005 Baghdad Bridge Stampede took the lives of almost a thousand Iraqis, making it one of the worst stampedes in modern history. This death toll is believed to be the largest loss of life since the beginning of the United States-led invasion of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites were marching to a religious festival, and had to cross a river bridge in Northern Baghdad. Word soon got out of a supposed suicide bomber and people start panicking, having already been put on edge by militants firing rockets at a nearby Shiite shrine earlier in the day.People quickly tried to exit in all directions — most of the deaths were caused by people on the bridge either suffocating or being crushed to death, but others drowned after jumping or falling into the Tigris River.

3. The Hillsborough Stadium Stampede

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Dubbed Britain’s worst sports disaster, this 1989 stampede resulted in the death of 93 soccer fans and the injury of over 200 more. The tragic match took place at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, where the FA Cup semi-finals were occurring between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest (LINK 16). The problems started when local police decided to open the stadium gates in order to alleviate some of the crowding occurring outside of the stadium. When the gates opened a mass of people entered the already full terrace and pushed forward, crushing people already in the stadium up against the wire-topped safety fences. The riot control fences trapped people, resulting in a crush of bodies. Because of recently introduced measures to keep the fans of rival teams apart, there was no way for people to escape the section. Blame for the incident has been put on the police, as well as the arena for improper ticket allocation.

2. The Victoria Hall Stampede

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This horrible 1883 stampede took the lives of over 180 children in Britain. Victoria Hall was where a local variety show promised to provide “the greatest treat for children ever given.” They also promised that every child in attendance would receive free toys — children immediately began rushing into the aisles, blocking the exits and toppling over one another in an attempt to get the toys. Though reports remain unclear, it seems that the doorways at the base of the exit were bolted shut. This tragedy inspired the creation of the push bar emergency exit.

1. The Phnom Penh Stampede

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This 2010 stampede in Phnom Penh, Cambodia that took the lives of over 450 people has been called the country’s worst tragedy since the rule of the Khmer Rouge. It occurred on a bridge, where huge crowds of people were crossing in order to go to an island where a large annual water festival was taking place. The suspension bridge went way over capacity, and people didn’t realize that suspension bridges were prone to swaying in the wind under stress. This swaying is believed to have fueled the panic that caused the stampede. People were trapped and trampled underfoot by those trying to escape. Others drowned because they jumped or were pushed off of the bridge, and some were even electrocuted when the chaos jarred wires loose.


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6 Comments

  1. It may not have been the deadliest human stampede ever, but I believe the Love Parade Disaster of 2010, which took place in Germany, is worthy of mention. 21 people lost their lives, and over 500 were injured.

  2. There’s youtube footage of the entire Station Club fire. A person filmed the entire disaster from the beginning to almost the very end. It’s amazing how fast that fire spread. Towards the middle of the footage you can see a pile of people stuck right at the entrance trying to escape. It’s very tragic and shocking to watch.

  3. Sorry to parse a tragedy down to a series of clinical facts, but I hardly think the Station Club fire belongs on this list. ANY fire in crowded building is going to cause a “stampede” toward the doors, which immediately jam up and cause mass fatalities, both from smoke and crowd suffocation. That being the case, the Station fire is not “the deadliest in US history” by any stretch. Just off the top of my head, the Boston Coconut Grove Nightclub fire (1942), the Chicago Iroquois Theater Fire (1903), and the infamous New York Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire (1911) all saw such fires and “stampedes” with much greater loss of life. A little homework would be in order here.

  4. Eric Saferstein on

    People have a fundamental right to know…
    that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an emergency evacuation notice and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone…
    it’s almost certainly an attempt to create an artificially generated stampede.

    http://agsaf.org
    Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation