At least nine people were killed in a stampede in a shopping mall in Uganda on Sunday. People were gathered at the Freedom City mall in Kampala for New Year celebrations when the stampede occurred.
One of the survivors, Sylvia Nakalema, 27, a businesswoman, said the crush started when people went to view the fireworks on a platform and were returning downstairs.
She said: “There was a huge crowd. People begun pushing each other for space, leading some to fall, and the stampede ensued. Children were crying and there was chaos. I survived because I was pushed in a corner by the crowd.
“I felt losing breath but I stayed put since I had no exit until the situation calmed down, but some people were already lying down gasping for breath.”
In a tweet, Uganda Police Force said, ‘The Katwe Territorial Police are investigating an incident of rash and neglect that occurred at a New Year’s Eve event at the Freedom City Mall Namasuba and resulted in the deaths of nine people, including several juveniles.”
On Monday afternoon according to police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, Musinguzi has been arrested to help in investigations in regards negligence during the concert.
“We are investigating him for negligence that could have caused the death of 10 people,”Enanga said.
How this stampede should have been avoided?
World over, events and particularly music events require much planning and thought beforehand. In most cases, it is recommended that a team is put in place to take control of this planning process.
The risks involved with a music event can vary drastically from event to event. In order to plan for crowds in any event there must be clear knowledge of numbers, types of staff or stewards on hand, how they will organize themselves, and who is in command.
Dealing with crowds is not about controlling people but rather about understanding crowd psychology and dynamics in order to manage them accordingly and should not be taken lightly.
A risk assessment including an emergency plan and a first aid plan must be put in place to be prepared for crowd surges, injuries, and other major incidents including crowd clashes.
Many event planners have developed a technique for getting out of a stampedes called the accordion method:
“After you’re pushed forward, like in a wave, there’s a lull. That lull is your chance to move, and the way you move is on a diagonal, between pockets of people. There’s always space between people. A couple of steps sideways, another wave surge, then another couple of steps in the next lull. You work your way out that way till you get to the periphery.”, said Paul Wertheimer, one of the world’s leaders on crowd safety.
Back To Freedom City Stampede
According to police, earlier, the police at Katwe had inspected the venue and has passed all the tests including having multiple entry and exit points whereas Counter Terrorism Police officers who were in charge of fireworks display were also present.
Enanga however explained that later, when the event started, police was tasked with manning the outer security which included screening those who were entering whereas the organizer was in charge of the inner security.
Police say, the inside security perimeter is where money for entry was being collected and to ensure no gate-crashers, the organisers closed four other entry and exit points and only left one.
“The organisers tend to put profits before safety of revelers and in this incident did the same to avoid gate crashers. There are over 5000 attendees, why should someone block all the other entries and exits and use only one place,” Enanga wondered.
He said investigations by the Criminal Investigations Directorate, Crime Intelligence, Counter Terrorism and Forensics into the incident are still ongoing to ascertain whether there were enough stewards to help in crowd control but also paramedics to help in case of any incident like it happened.
According to the police spokesperson, they are also investigating why children 18 were allowed to attend the concert without any adult.
“We remind organizers of events and proprietors of events to always follow the safety and security guidelines on management of public events.”
Enanga also says the Vice President, Jessica Alupo is set to visit the scene of the incident later this afternoon.