Seoul Halloween: Crowd crush kills at least 151 in South Korea’s Itaewon district


Seoul, South Korea
CNN

South Korea’s first major Halloween celebration since the end of the Covid restrictions changed to the situation on Saturday night, when at least 151. People, mostly teenagers and young adults, died when tourists were passing through a narrow street in a popular restaurant district in Seoul, officials said.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the incident, but Choi Seong-bum, director of the Yongsan-gu Fire Department, said it was “suspected that there crisis” and many people lost, injured at least 82.

The dead included at least 19 foreigners, including people from Iran, Norway, China and Uzbekistan, he said.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol scheduled an emergency meeting early Sunday, and then visited the site to receive a briefing from emergency personnel.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visits the site in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday, October 30, 2022.

Speaking of the country, he called for a period of national mourning “until the conflict is over.” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo later said that the mourning period will end at midnight on November 5.

“An incident that shouldn’t have happened in the middle of Seoul yesterday on Halloween,” Yoon said. “I pray for those who died in an unexpected accident and hope that the injured will recover quickly.”

Tens of thousands of revelers poured into the Itaewon nightclub district on Saturday night to enjoy South Korea’s first Halloween celebration since crowd bans and face masks regulations imposed by the Covid pandemic.

Eyewitnesses said that even before the violence, people from outside were packed so tightly in the narrow streets that it was difficult to move.

“I see people going to the left and I see people going to the other side. So, the person in the middle is in trouble, so they don’t have a way to communicate, they can’t breathe,” Sung Sehyun told CNN. He said the place was like “a train wire jammed.”

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Videos posted on social media showed the actors and other party members lying on the ground while they waited for medical help.

“We saw a scene from a movie … like a war scene,” witness Park Jung-Hoon, 21, told Reuters. “They were doing CPR here and there and people were rushing because there was nothing under control. It was completely out of control.”

Yonhap News Agency reported that some people had suffered from “heart attacks,” prompting reports to fire officials. Emergency officials helped at least 81 people in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood with reported “difficulty breathing.”

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, although the authorities said there was no smoke or fire at the scene when they received the first emergency call of the victim “buried” in the crowd at 10:24 p.m.

A rescue team works at a scene where many people were injured during a Halloween celebration in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 29, 2022.

Police cordoned off the scene and videos on social media showed people dressed in Halloween costumes lie in the streets and on stretchers as first responders provide assistance and queues of ambulances designed to remove the injured.

Many people were sent to nearby facilities, said Choi Jae-won, director of Yongsan Health Center. The bodies of the victims have been sent to various hospital mortuaries, the police added.

The Seoul city government received reports of missing persons as friends and family searched for people known to be in the situation who did not come home.

On Sunday, authorities were inspecting the sidewalk for property and evidence as they tried to determine the final toll of the injured and dead.

People fly into Seoul from all over Asia to celebrate Halloween in Itaewon, and this year is seen as a welcome return of the festival after the pandemic. Hotels and conference centers in the area are booked in advance and crowds are expected.

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However, before midnight, the celebration turned dark, because the first request for help was made by the crowd.

Witness Sung said that he had to push his way past before night to be clear of the busy road. “I was lucky to pass (but an hour) later, I heard people were killed. Because people were being beaten to … and people were crashing together.”

Juliette Kayyem, a disaster management expert and national security analyst for CNN, said the city’s density – and the large number of people living in Seoul – could be a drag. work in nature.

“People in Seoul are used to living in packed areas, it’s possible they won’t be alerted by the packed streets,” he said. “Panic is always important, and there is a danger of overuse in crowded places.”

It is difficult to determine the cause of the accident – but the authorities “would have expected a large number … before Saturday night,” he added. “There is a duty of the police to monitor the crowd in real time, so they can know the need to get people out.”

More than 1,700 Emergency responders were dispatched Saturday night, including 517 firefighters, 1,100 police officers, and about 70 government employees.

Crowds of people are seen at the popular nightclub Itaewon in Seoul on October 30, 2022.

In a radio statement on Sunday, President Yoon said that the damage will be investigated and measures will be taken to ensure that similar incidents will not happen again.

“We will have important functions such as the Ministry of Interior and Security to conduct situational analysis not only for Halloween events but also for local celebrations and manage them so that they can ensure justice and safety,” Yoon said, adding that the “Multi-purpose Emergency System” will support both the injured and the families of the dead.

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“I pray for those who died in the unexpected accident and hope that the injured will recover quickly,” Yoon said.

Yoon also urged the authorities to “urgently” identify the victims because of the families’ concerns, said Senior Presidential Minister for Public Relations Kim Eun-hye.

The government has declared Yongsan-gu, where Itaewon is located, a special disaster zone.

The US Department of Defense said one American was injured in the crash. “We are working with local authorities to determine if any additional US citizens have been affected and are ready to provide assistance in the country,” the Department of Defense said. .

Around the world, leaders have sent their condolences to South Korea and the people affected by the disaster.

Emergency services treat injured people on Oct. 30, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea.

“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul,” US President Joe Biden wrote in a statement. “We sympathize with the people of Korea and send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured.”

The United States is ready to provide South Korea with “all the support it needs,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

Emergency services treat the injured in Seoul, South Korea.

British Foreign Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “All our thoughts are with the current responders and all South Koreans at this difficult time.” In a tweet written in French and Korean, President Emmanuel Macron said “France is on your side.”

Itaewon, once shunned by locals as a seedy, red light district, has transformed into one of Seoul’s top venues. Known for its nightlife and trendy restaurants, the neighborhood comes to life at night.

It is also home to Seoul’s Muslim and gay communities, and is near a US military base.

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