Crowd Control System
By Apolinario Villalobos
On January 18, the day the pope was scheduled to say Mass at Luneta in the afternoon, a stampede happened just before five in the morning. The Maria Orosa entrance to Luneta was breached by impatient pilgrims. The Maria Orosa area has two gates for the pilgrims and provided with scanning machines. With the breach that practically toppled heavy concrete barricades, a stampede ensued resulting to the injury of about ten pilgrims with one elderly brought to the hospital, rendering the scanning machines useless.
According to the interviewed pilgrims who were part of the stampeding crowd, they were outside the park since the day before so that they could secure a vantage area in front of the stage or beside the path intended for the pope. They came from the far provinces hoping that as soon as they have arrived at Luneta, they could settle down at a chosen area and make use of the park’s toilet facilities. The opportunities were denied to them because, particularly at the Maria Orosa entrance, only one entrance was opened instead of the two, resulting unfortunately to the stampede.
In the above instance, while the enthusiasm of the pilgrims can be blamed, observable is the oversight of the operating committee in taking into consideration the pent up emotion of the pilgrims that could burst into impatience, resulting to the stampede which, indeed happened.
The people behind the event should have used the chaotic handling of the Cebu Pacific Air passengers at the airport terminal 3 as basis in coming up with a system in handling the papal visit crowd. They should have taken note that the reason of the chaos at the airport is the amassing of the passengers at the gate before checking them in close to departure time by one or two check-in clerks, instead of a full complement of personnel.
Going back to the Luneta stampede, it could have been avoided if the two gates were opened instead of just one. Or better, they should have opened said gates much much earlier to give time for an orderly inflow of pilgrims.
In the same way, the chaos at the airport terminal 3 could have been avoided if Cebu Pacific Air opens its check in counters much much earlier if they see the forming of a long queue outside the terminal….and with a full complement of check-in personnel, to ensure that all passengers with confirmed tickets are checked in on time. Cebu Pacific Air, after operating for so many years is supposed to have a clear profile of their clientele.
Common sense still, is an important ingredient in concocting a systematic handling of a crowd.