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Crowd behavior expert offers 10 tips for surviving a crowd crush

Crowd behavior expert offers 10 tips for surviving a crowd crush
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Crowd behavior expert offers 10 tips for surviving a crowd crush

Mehdi Moussaid, Max Planck Institute for Human Development

On July 24, 2010, more than a million dancing partygoers converged on an industrial zone in Duisburg, in Eastern Germany. They were attending the Love Parade, one of the most popular music festivals in the world. Decked out in sunglasses and fluorescent wigs, the happy revellers funnelled into a 200-meter-long tunnel, heading toward a former freight station where part of the festival was taking place.

In the mid-afternoon, heavy congestion formed at the end of the tunnel – the underground passage was too small to allow such an immense crowd to pass. As the minutes went by, the human density rose dangerously. The festivalgoers, pushed up against each other, soon could barely move their arms or even hands. At the core of the crowd, some no longer had enough room to breathe. Around 5 p.m., to the sound of techno beats played by the best DJs in the world, the first victims began to suffocate. In the end, 21 people died, and 651 were injured. One survivor told the newspaper Bild: “It was impossible to get out of the tunnel. There was a wall of people in front of me.”

A glimpse of the 2010 Love Parade prior to the accident (amateur video).

Just one month earlier, I was defending my doctoral thesis in an amphitheatre at Paul Sabatier University, in Toulouse, France. The topic of my research was the movement of crowds. Over three years, I had examined mass movements in all sorts of places – shopping streets, markets, even in lab experiments. When the Love Parade accident hit the news, my friends and family all asked me the same thing: what should they do if they found themselves in that kind of situation? How could they survive if they were trapped in a crowd, like the victims at the Love Parade? Let’s find out.

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