4 Dec 2022


Crowd Crush (Hajj)

Format: Harvard

Academic level: University

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 5542

Pages: 10

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Mass gathering events including religious events occur regularly across the world every year. The Hajj is one of the largest mass gathering events worldwide. It is a Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca and consists of different religious rituals that pilgrims must accomplish within a specific period in specific areas or Hajj holy locations (Seliaman et al. 2013). Every Islam follower must visit the city at least once in a lifetime for the Hajj. The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The event presents significant challenges concerning crowd management and responses to unpredicted threats. 

During Hajj, the city of Mecca must deal with millions of pilgrims who travel by air from around the world. All the pilgrims must be accommodated at different Hajj ritual sites including Muzdalifah, Arafat, Mina, and Kaaba. Given the large number of people attending the event in Mecca, authorities find it challenging to control the crowd, particularly in the location involving the movement of people and given the static underlying road-network connecting the different worship area, the increasing attendance numbers each year, and the short duration of the event. Besides, most pilgrims are illiterate, elderly, and originate from developing countries. The holy city places such as Muzdalifa, Arafat, and Mina have limited space, which raises issues concerning event management. Some attendants also fail to comply with the suggested schedules while the increasing number of attendants each year contributes to the emergence of disasters as crowds must wait excessively at worship places. Besides, authorities usually do not offer directional information to foreign pilgrims attending Hajj for the first time. New pilgrims need information regarding the holy places. It becomes increasingly challenging for authorities to managing crowds when all attendees are required to complete rituals at a single place, move together in masses, and pilgrims are located within short distances from other locations for rituals. Other challenges entail the need for the event to be completed in a fixed and limited schedule within five days. Rituals in the event occur in specified sequences within a 400 ha area. Consequently, the Hajj is usually crowded where officials must manage large crowds besides providing shelter, food, sanitation, and emergency services. The strictness and precision involved in the Hajj cause disasters. The event has witnessed numerous incidents that have led to death. Crowd crush is one of the incidents that occurred during Hajj. The fatalities from these incidents highlight the issue of crowd safety to ensure the safety of pilgrims. 

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The present paper examines crowd crush incidents during the Hajj through offering an overview of the incident, examining the overall human behavior during the incident based on the social identity theory, examining the role of crowd dynamics during the incident, and examining the place of panic in such events. 

Overview of Crowd Crush (Hajj) 

Religion is one of the major factors that draw crowds because it involves human interest. Hajj is regarded as the largest annual mass gathering event across the world (Alaska et al., 2017). The pilgrimage consists of several rituals that must be performed within five days beginning from the ninth day and ending on the 13th day of the Dull Hijjah based on the Muslim calendar (Kurdi, 2017). The event is one of the mandatory five Islam pillars and people who are healthy, financially able and physically able must attend the event and conduct the rituals at least one time in their lives (Memish et al., 2014). The event has been receiving surging numbers of pilgrims each year, which has congested the existing infrastructure at the sites of the event. The Mecca pilgrimage attracts nearly two to four million pilgrims annually (Rahman et al., 2017). In such an extreme event, any slight lapse can rapidly cause a disaster. Crowd crush occurs when the dense, swelling, and walking from one location of the pilgrimage to another leads to a progressive crowd collapse. The densities usually range from 6-7 people per square meter, which normally makes it challenging for people to move, groups of people to be swept along in waves, and people jostling to find breath and to avoid being trampled or falling, which can lead to deaths. The most crowded ceremony or activity during Hajj is the stoning of the devil (Figure 1). 

Figure 1: Pilgrims symbolically stoning the devile 

Soruce: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2018/08/21/WATCH-Prayers-in-Muzdalefa-before-stoning-devil-in-last-major-Hajj-ritual 

The event entails pilgrims throwing pebbles ritualistically at three walls that are considered the locations where the devil tempted Abraham. The ceremony is among a series of ritual activities that pilgrims must perform during Hajj. The involved rituals occur at the Grand Mosque and several holy sites including Arafat located nearly 20 km from the mosque, Mina located nearly 6 km from the mosque, and Muzdalifah located nearly 13 km from the mosque (Alaska et al., 2017). Moving through these sites mainly involves walking or devoted public transport. Nearly 20,000 buses are involved in transporting pilgrims between the holy sites while nearly 72,000 pilgrims travel through trains per hour (Alaska et al., 2017). 

The Grand Mosque is situated in a 35.68 ha area and has indoor and outdoor spaces for praying (Rahman et al., 2017). The spaces can handle nearly two million pilgrims (Figure 2). On average, the Mosque can support a crowd density of four people per square meter at full capacity. The density, however, reaches six to eight people per square meter at specific locations such as those around Kaaba. Authorities in Saudi Arabia have attempted to extend the Mosque due to the surging numbers of visitors (Tunasar, 2013). The number of people outside and inside of the Mosque can reach over 300,000 at peak stretches (Alshalalfah et al., 2015). The people must, however, move out after one hour as another group of pilgrims enters. 

Figure 2: Al-Masjid Al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, Mecca, with the Ka'aba at centre and pillars round edge (Rahman et al., 2017). 

The Aljamarat Bridge has two major pedestrian paths entering the bridge. It has three pillars where visitors conduct the stoning ritual. Crowding mostly occurs around these pillars. The visitors also consider the bridge as their gateway to the city of Makkah to conduct Tawaf ritual at the Mosque (Alshalalfah et al., 2015) (Figure 3). The bridge was reconstructed after the 2006 crowd crush to hinder crowding and regular crowd crushes. The project was completed in 2010. The number of pilgrims per hour on the bridge at peak times can reach 300,000 (Alaska et al., 2017). 

Figure 3: Figure 2. Aljamarat Bridge. 

Source: https://hajjumrahplanner.com/jamarat-bridge/ 

The Muzdalifah site is situated in a 1,000 ha open area between Mina and Arafat. Pilgrims who complete their time at the Arafat site usually move to Muzdalifah for a night. The movement entails over two million visitors using various means of transport including walking, trains, or buses. Visitors usually collect pebbles at Muzdalifah to be used for the next rituals (Seliaman et al. 2013). Another important site is the Arafat site that is situated in a 1,269 ha where half of it comprises of a built-up area while the rest has pedestrian paths and roads. The site is also the most crowded area during the second Hajj day since all visitors must arrive, stay for a half a day, and leave in the evening. In turn, this creates overcrowding issues at the main roads moving into and from the site. Visitors usually go to Muzdalifah after leaving Arafat through nine vehicle roads and two pedestrian paths. Nearly 500,000 visitors move between the two sites at every hour during peak flows (Abdelghany, Abdelghany and Mahmassani, 2016). Mina city normally houses tents and has the Aljamarat Bridge. 

The major Hajj rituals include the Tawaf, which is the first ritual and occurs during the 8th day. Nearly 330,000 visitors can conduct the ritual at one time, which leads to overcrowding issues (Abdelghany, Abdelghany and Mahmassani, 2016). The second ritual also occurs on the 8th day where visitors walk to and from the Safa and Marwan mountains seven times. About 50,000 people with a crowd density of 4-8 people per square meter engage in the ritual at ago (Abdelghany, Abdelghany and Mahmassani, 2016). The third ritual occurs on the 8th, the 10th, 11th, and 12th days and involves visitors spending their time at Mina. Standing on Arafat hills on the 9th day is the third ritual. Most visitors spend time on Arafat, which creates the issue of crowding. The fourth ritual occurs on the 9th day where visitors from the Arafat spend a night in Muzdalifah before the next day. Nearly 500,000 visitors move between Arafat and Muzdalifah every hour (Abdelghany, Abdelghany and Mahmassani, 2016). The final ritual occurs on the 10th, 11th, and 12th days and involves the stoning event inside the Aljamarat Bridge. 

There have been notable incidents throughout Hajj. Examples include the 1990 crush that occurred inside a pedestrian tunnel that led out from Mecca towards the Plains of Arafat and Mina. 1,426 pilgrims died in the incident (Agencies, 2015). A crowd crush in 1994 also killed 270 pilgrims during the stoning ceremony while another one in 1998 led to the death of 118 pilgrims and injured 180 others on Jamaraat Bridge (Agencies, 2015). Additionally, 35 pilgrims died in 2001 in a crush during the stoning ritual (Agencies, 2015) while another 14 died in 2003 during the same ceremony (Agencies, 2015). In 2004, 251 pilgrims died while 244 were injured in a crowd crush during the stoning ritual. In 2006, a crowd crush that occurred during the stoning ritual led to the deaths of about 346 pilgrims and injured 289 others. The incident occurred when travelers in a bus arrived at the eastern access slopes to the Jamaraat Bridge where pilgrims tripped and caused the crush. Nearly two million people were engaged in the ritual during the incident (Agencies, 2015). The most recent incident occurred in 2015 when a crowd crush caused the death of over 700 pilgrims. 

Overall Human Behavior in Crowd Crush (Hajj) 

An important determinant in crowd behavior concerns a sense of common fate. People who consider themselves a part of the crowd can support a false sense of safety in overly crowded areas (Reicher, 2011). This is usually the case when millions of pilgrims gather at the holy city to perform jamaat. The social identity theory suggests an alternative view regarding crowd safety (Hornsey, 2008). According to the social identity theory, in addition to personal identities, people have different social identities that rely on their social or group membership to a specific category (Hornsey, 2008). Those who share a social identity with others in crowds consider others to be members of their in-group, which leads to different affective, behavioral, and cognitive outcomes (Reicher, 2011). The effects emerge because visitors are exposed to other pilgrims in which the resulting contact between various people establishes a common social identity. 

According to the social identity theory, collective action occurs only after members of the group share a common social identity. The social identity emphasizes intergroup interactions as the cause of crowd processes. The presence of an out-group such as law enforcement often defines crowd behavior because the behavior does not occur separately (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Crowd behavior should, thus, be considered to be an intergroup process. Studies suggest that dynamics, conditions, and concepts can be used to explain crowd behavior (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). The dynamic of crowd behavior refers to the action of the out-group that is illegally experienced by the in-group crowd where the out-group treats the in-group indiscriminately. The indiscriminate action unites and encourages the in-group crowd to engage in a new behavior (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Conditions for crowd behavior comprise two asymmetry forms. They are a categorical asymmetry involving conflicting creation of suitable behavior, which relies on social identities and power asymmetry between the out-groups and the crowd. The out-group and the crowd can understand the required behavior differently, even though conflicts emerge only when the out-group such as law enforcement imposes its understanding of suitable behavior on the crowd. 

Regarding concepts, social identity is dynamically related to the context. Identity involves how people understand their position concerning other people and the behaviors that flow from the position. Context refers to the action of other groups that exert external influence to cause specific behavior in people. Context, thus, involves the association between groups where the response of a single group to a situation directly affects the response of another group to the same situations, which further affects the first group. The meaning of this is that crowd incidents rely on the intergroup association where the actions of other groups such as the emergency services and the law enforcement matter. 

Researchers have developed the concept of a psychological crowd to distinguish between groups of people in a single place or physical crowd with individual identities (Reicher, 2011). A psychological crowd refers to a group of people with a shared social identity. Events such as the Hajj change gatherings into psychological crowds cognitively, psychologically, and affectively (Reicher, 2011). The cognitive transformation occurs when people in the group stop considering themselves based on their identity and start considering themselves based on social identity. Consequently, people begin acting socially to reflect the new social identity. Psychological transformation occurs when people redefine their societal associations to comply with the same category as others around them to become a collective group. They do this through social solidarity and social validation, which changes their social relations within the crowd to establish the conditions of coordinated behavior. In social validation, people sharing a single identity tend to agree with, respect and trust each other to validate their views as they share a common experience and perspective with other members. 

In social solidarity, the common fate compels people to join together both behaviorally and mentally, to become one and comfort and help others. They expose themselves to dangers to defend other crowd members against threats even if this places them to dangers individually. Affective transformation occurs when the crowd realizes social identities that make their group matters to become passionate and affective. In turn, this increases the attachment of the members to the groups represented by the crowd. 

Human density during the Hajj can reach up to 10 people per square meter in areas close to Kaaba, which can lead to threats such as crushes, trampling, or falling can emerge. Studies have found that the impact of crowd density on safety feelings differ based on the presence or absence of shared social identification within the crowd (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Social identification with the crowd moderates the adverse effect of high crowd density on safety. People feel safe because they perceive that members of the crowd are supportive. Those who experience greater identification with the crowd feel safer at the Hajj (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Based on the social identity theory, identifying with the Hajj crowd is the main process that explains increased positive attitudes to other groups during the event. Offering social support to other members during the event also contributes to improved identification (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Participation in the all-Muslim event increases positive assessments of other groups through crowd identification, which encourages intolerance in such gatherings (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). The need to cooperate during Hajj is both a practical requirement and a shared spiritual value because of the high crowd density levels. Most pilgrims feel ecstatic when they see and are adjacent to Kaaba. Because of the spiritual value of this site, nearly all pilgrims desire to be adjacent to the location simultaneously (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). In turn, this results in adverse outcomes such as people pushing each other. 

Role of Crowd Dynamics 

What exactly occurs during crowd crush? It is vital to understand the dynamics of this incident. Studies on the 2006 crowd crush revealed that the crowd crush phenomenon occurs spontaneously when the density of people reaches a critical level of nearly six persons per square meter. Physical contact at this crowding level becomes so intense that any small shift can lead to a swell in instability through the crowd (Helbing, Johansson and Al-Abideen, 2007). The turbulence causes pilgrims to fall and places them under overwhelming physical stress. 

When people are placed tightly together, their movement can be compared to a fluid and when they start moving without control, they are at a greater risk of experiencing crowd crush. In the event that the human density in crowds is less than four persons per square meter, the people have adequate space to make choices and they are not in danger of moving without control (Pretorius, Gwynne and Galea, 2013). Studies show that people generally remain calm and decent and act rationally even during a crisis. Their decisions, however, are based on what they know (Pretorius, Gwynne and Galea, 2013). When the human density in a crowd increases above four persons per square meter to reach six and above, the crowd is vulnerable to two types of accidents. 

The crowd can progressively crush where a single individual falls due to turbulence across the crowd or through slipping or tripping. In turn, this suddenly denies the adjacent individuals a body to lean against. These individuals are still under pressure on another side, which causes them to fall on top of each other or to be knocked over when attempting to assist the fallen individual. In turn, this leaves a large space that draws in more people until the turbulence reduces (Pretorius, Gwynne and Galea, 2013). A progressive crush, thus, involves, people, being buried alive in bodies and occurs mostly when large crowds move steadily through confined paths that force them to move forward all the time. The recent crowd crush in Mecca can be considered to be a progressive crush as it involved two crowds that were moving alongside each other but then met. 

The second type of crowd crush emerges when crowds are squeezed to a certain level that they lose the ability to breathe and die due to compressive asphyxiation (Pretorius, Gwynne and Galea, 2013). The crush occurs when people move into a confined location either as an attempt to go in or move out. Most of the fatalities in this type of crush affect people who are against walls. It is vital to remember that crowds can only fit through a narrow path at a specific rate, regardless of whether or not the crowd is calm (Figure 4). People at the back can push harder but they will eventually succumb. 

Figure 4: People moving in narrow paths during hajj/Rashid Siddiqui 

The main feature of the Hajj event is that it is obligatory to perform specific rituals at certain periods at specified areas (Reda 2016.). In turn, this contributes to the movement and gathering of large numbers of visitors to conduct the rituals, which causes bottlenecks. The overcrowding that results can cause crowd crush among other incidents (Friberg and Hjelm 2015). Despite the numerous interventions such as infrastructural expansions and careful planning of the event, crowd crush incidents are unavoidable and have been occurring over the years. The issue is expected because of the crowd dynamics involving thousands of people engaging in crowded rituals (Yamin 2015). Another important issue concerns the role of human behavior in crowd crushes. The investigations that launched after the different crowd crush incidents blamed visitors for the accidents. Studies, however, confirm that human behavior does not play any role in these incidents (Helbing, Johansson and Al-Abideen, 2007). These incidents occur because of physical forces involving turbulent waves within crowds. These waves reach irresistible or uncontrollable levels. Most fatalities in crowd crushes emerge due to compressive asphyxia (Still, 2019). Studies show that the turbulent waves within high-density crowds can reach over 4500N. The waves emerge mainly due to pushing and the outcome of visitors leaning against others. When pilgrims are vertically stacked up on top of each other or push each other or lean against each other horizontally, compressive asphyxia emerges (Still, 2019). In some notable incidents away from Hajj, piles of bodies stacked up three meters high. Given such a height, people below would have to face pressures ranging from 3600N to 4000N (Still, 2019). Horizontal forces are usually dynamic and involve people pushing against each other to breathe, which can lead to compressive asphyxia. In another event, a line of bodies stacked horizontally nine meters from the wall close to the entrance. In turn, this shows that crowd turbulence occurred in all directions as people at the back pushed forward while people at the front pushed away from the wall (Still, 2019). These findings suggest that physical forces are the basis for the occurrence of crowd crush incidents. 

The Roles of Panic 

Most authorities react to crowd crush incidents by evoking the idea of mass panic, which directly blames the crowd. Panic includes situations where people possess limited information and view because of large crowd density and short egress time. The situations can lead to pushing behavior and physical competition (Owaidah, 2015). Panic involves the collapse of order when people start to anxiously respond to specific events (Owaidah, 2015). Most panic events entail people running away from the threat and struggling to survive, which can lead to falling and crushing. Notable effects of panic in crowded areas include people moving faster than normal, people physically interacting by pushing each other, or people engaging in disorganized movements. A built-up of panicked people can emerge where people use exits or routes ineffectively or fail to notice them completely (Owaidah, 2015). Mass panic, however, is not a factor in crowd crush incidents. These incidents normally involve people being crushed directly by other people who do not choose to do so because all the people around do not know what is going on as the epicenter is usually too far away. 

The social identity theory can also assist in understanding mass behaviors when incidents occur (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). According to the theory, shared social identity affects social actions. The theory helps to understand collective behavior in contexts in which members do not know other group members and where people behave based on their category membership. The social identity theory shows that individuals are attracted to their social categories and in-groups regardless of other members. People with a shared identity produce greater output compared to those with individual identities. The more individuals identify with their group the more they are committed to collective behavior. People consider it useful to assist a fellow member in the group than assist a non-member. Additionally, individuals have a higher chance of accessing group-based support sources and decreasing their levels of stress the more they identify with a specific group. Studies also show that the shared experience of an emergency or risk can transform specific people into a social group with a common social identity. The common social identity offers members of the crowd a sense of togetherness and expectations of mutual support (Cocking, Drury and Reicher, 2009). In turn, this contributes to the understanding of actions that occur among unfamiliar members in a crowd. Studies thus support the suggestion that social identity encourages solidarity with unfamiliar people. 

Other issues also contribute to crowd crush incidents during Hajj. For instance, at the Tawaf site within the Mosque visitors who complete their rituals are mostly close to Kaaba. They usually move in patterns after finishing the rituals and end up colliding with other visitors. Blockage and congestion mostly emerge due to queuing at gates. Some entrances to holy sites are not limited to specific entrances, which allow pilgrims to flow easily into an area using various directions. 

Collective Behavior in Crowd Crush Incidents 

Collective behavior has been identified as vital in reducing risk for disasters (Drury, Reicher and Stott, 2012). Several factors including mental and architecture mechanisms interact to generate specific collective behaviors that either contribute to or decrease risk. Cooperation during the Hajj is a key form of collective behavior because establishing harmonious associations with others offers spiritual value that is both expected and salient during the event in addition to other values such as peacefulness and unity (Alnabulsi et al., 2019). People are also expected to cooperate in most cases in the Hajj, particularly in crowded areas where lack of coordination between visitors through pushing and denying others space can lead to crowd crush incidents and deaths. The experience of being adjacent to the Kaaba is communal and is highlighted by the dress code where visitors wear simple white robes for most of the rituals. In turn, this depicts universality, equality, and unity in their shared participation in the ceremony. People also engage in competitive behavior at various Holy sites in the Hajj besides engaging in harmonious and joyous behavior. The competition emerges when pilgrims struggle to get near the Kaaba, especially close to the black stone where some visitors apply physical force to push themselves through others (Figure 5). Still, other visitors find that pillars obscure their view of the Kaaba once they are close. 

Figure 5: Crowd close to the black stone, at the Ka'aba 

Image courtesy of Wessam Hassanin 

Crowd crush incidents at the Hajj sites are connected to collective behavior as this determines the morals and beliefs that contribute to unifying society members (Alnabulsi et al., 2019). One of the ways through which people manifest collective behavior is religion. Religion functions as a guideline for social and moral behavior, which enhances social cohesion and interaction and communication among people. Religion, therefore, bring people together both mentally and physically. Collective worship behaviors are not simply cases where many people express their beliefs in their God; they are communal experiences that increase feelings of unity (Alnabulsi et al., 2019). In the Hajj, people express communal worship and use the event to improve social cohesion. The event is unique due to its scale, continuousness, and representational unity of its performance. The event always occurs in the same geographical area, within the same month, and involves prescribed ritual acts. In turn, this contributes to increases in social cohesion compared to other religious events. 

Incidents involving crowd crush can be regarded as a collective crush of people either in random or unified directions (Friberg and Hjelm 2015). Crowd crush incidents are the dominant hazards that occur at mass gatherings. They are usually characterized by the flow of large numbers of people in crowds as they attempt to move towards a specific location or while performing specific events of rituals. These incidents can be fatal due to suffocation or trampling because of the high pressure exerted by pushing crowds. Turbulence usually emerges when the density of the visitors is high and the visitors move slowly (Friberg and Hjelm 2015). The movement of visitors can last for over 20 minutes where visitors can flow in all directions, which may lead to falling and pushing (Owaidah, 2015). Crowd turbulence is generated when the density of people moving increases compared to the go and stop waves. When people in crowds cannot flow naturally because of barriers, bottlenecks emerge (Friberg and Hjelm 2015). Bottlenecks flow differently due to the length and width of the movement where people move slowly in narrower and longer flows. 

Crowd crush incidents may occur after something interferes with the flow of people such as through blocking the exit while people continue moving into the area. Factors such as inadequate emergency and security services, overcrowded spaces, and blocked exists exacerbate the dangers of crowd crush incidents. While one can easily assume that crowd crush occurs due to panic involving crowds anxiously running away from something, only fire incidents involve panic. In most crowd crush incidents, the crowd is usually moving toward something. 

Discussion and Conclusion 

The main objective of the paper was to offer an account of the crowd crush in the Hajj. The explanations in the paper were informed by the social identity theory, which considers crowd action and experience to be a function of common social identities and intergroup associations as characterizing crowd events. During the Hajj, the authorities represent the out-group and their role is to maintain order, keep the crowd safe, and respond to emergencies. The paper mainly considered the safety of visitors during the event. Pilgrims regard their Muslim identity to be more important than their national or ethnic identities during the Hajj, which lead to the development of a common social identity with other members in the crowd. The performance of the same rituals and dressing in same-colored robes enhances this shared identity. In turn, this allows visitors to experience a sense of togetherness and shared feelings in the crowd. Visitors also assist unfamiliar people and do not consider the high-density crowd to be a threat. The crowd during the Hajj can, thus, be regarded as having a single social category because of their shared situation as religious visitors, which they emphasize through engaging in similar acts and wearing similar robes. Sharing a common social identity positively influences individual behaviors in which pilgrims feel responsible for others and identify with unfamiliar people within the crowd. The social context of the Hajj influences visitors to transform from individual identities to a common social identity, which further influences the crowd to behave based on a set of norms. The norms in the event include empathy, mutual assistance, and a privilege of the Muslim identity. 

There is also the possibility of the high density of the crowd to cause turbulences that make it hard to control the crowd. Identification with the crowd is also related to safety feelings and crowd density. In particular, people who highly identify with the crowd can tolerate high-density levels and feel safer at higher crowd densities because they feel that they are surrounded by other people who would offer assistance in emergency cases. The findings in this paper highlight the role of psychological and social factors during the Hajj. Earlier studies considered crowd crush incident to be due to crowd violence, inadequate crowd management, and inadequate infrastructure. Today the major concerns for Hajj management relate to the high risk of crowd crush incidents among visitors. Extreme crowding can lead to loss of restraint among pilgrims, which can lead to adverse outcomes. Crowd turbulence offers a better explanation regarding situations with a high-density level exceeding 6 people per square meter. In these situations, people in the crowd push against each other and in all directions due to imbalances that emerge after a visitor falls or trips. In turn, this result in turbulent waves that increase significantly and spread through the crowd, which increases the risk of crush incidents. Pedestrian flows with high densities have also been identified as other factors that contribute to crowd crush incidents during the Hajj. Most of the previous fatal crowd crush incidents occurred due to high-density crowds such as the 2015 crowd crush and the 2006 crowd crush. 

The findings also highlight the importance of authorities to understand crowd dynamics and behavior. They can use this knowledge to predict future crowds in the Hajj. They can also use it to observe crowd behavior during the event and implement timely measures to enhance effective actions. While most studies neglected the role of authorities, authorities need to understand the psychology of the crowds in the Hajj. Studies highlight the importance of positive associations between crowds and authorities to ensure safe events. Authorities can draw from the social identity theory about crowd phenomena to understand crowd action and identity. 

Crowd safety is also another important issue for authorities in the Hajj. The potential for fatal incidents is high in these events because of the crowd action dynamics. Crowd density is the single most crucial concern that threatens the safety of the crowd during the Hajj. Crowd crush incidents mainly occur because of high human densities as mentioned earlier and do not involve mass panic because most of the victims even do not know what is going on. The high turbulence waves due to overcrowding significantly contribute to these incidents particularly when a person trips or falls. In such situations, the crowd can be part of the solution through the social identity theory. A common social identity and the observed safety feelings that emerge moderate the adverse effects of high crowd density on safety feelings among visitors during the Hajj. The strong sense of identity with the crowd encourages people to support each other. 

In conclusion, the current paper contributes to the understanding of major incidents during the Hajj. The paper explored crowd crushes incidents during this religious event in relation to the social identity theory. The paper specifically focused on crowd views, safety feelings, and source of the feelings, and associations between people in crowds. Pilgrims who highly identify with the crowd and are in high-density crowds have higher perceptions of safety. The paper also supports the idea that crowd in the Hajj are psychological crowds with a united action and thought, and characterized by the desire to assist unfamiliar people in the crowd. The incidents during the Hajj mostly occur due to high-density crowds exceeding 6 people per square meter where one person falls, slips, or trips, which in turn leads to a series of events. The high turbulence generated by the crowd exerts a higher pressure on the crowd to cause fatal incidents. People usually die due to compressive asphyxia and sometime due to trampling. The crowd crushes at Hajj occur mainly due to high crowd densities, limited access points, and reduced crowd management. It is possible to prevent, predict, and avoid crowd crushes. 

Designing new spaces or expanding the location where crowds move or meet, however, does not solve the issue. Even though such attempts aim at easing crowd movement, they only work to increase the efficiency of the entire system. The focus should not be to expand pathways such as bridges because expanding a bridge that handles 200,000 individuals per hour to handle nearly 600,000 people per hour just increases pressure to other systems. More people will use the bridge due to its expanded capacity. Still, expanding pilgrimage accommodations does not solve the issue because it just attracts more people to visit. The target should be the main location such as the area around the pillars or the Kaaba because these are the areas where most pilgrims want to be close. Therefore, a limit regarding the number of people who can safely be in these areas will always exist given that millions of people attend the Hajj. A potential solution entails spreading the Hajj over numerous days. The crowd crushes that have occurred demonstrate that most incidents emerge due to overcrowding, large crowd pressures, absence of crowd management at pedestrian routes and rapid movements to conduct the stoning ritual. The incidents also demonstrate that the crowd crushes are unpredictable during Hajj and highlight the importance of preparing for unexpected incidents. The stakeholders should also understand how the physical forces act within the crowd and implement early precautions to prevent future incidents. It has also been shown that the Hajj as a religious event focuses on reinforcing the faith and assisting in the generation of social cohesion among visitors to positively affect pilgrims. The social aspects of the experiences during the event are integral to the Hajj. Shared social identity directly affects collective behavior and explains coping and social support, well-being and survival in most situations including extreme ones. Based on the social identity theory, being a member of a crowd is beneficial during emergencies. The crowd offers a sense of strength both to the disaster and its inadequate management. 


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