Itaewon crowd crush: Horror as more than 150 die in Seoul district
Officials say that at least 153 people died when a huge crowd of Halloween revellers crowded into a narrow street in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
At least 82 more people were hurt in the incident in the nightlife area of Itaewon, which was holding its first Halloween celebrations without masks since Covid.
People who were caught up in the crowd were piled on top of each other, according to reports.
Most of those who died were in their teens or 20s. Twenty of them were foreigners.
Still, people are trying to figure out what caused the disaster.
After an emergency meeting, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol told the government to set up a task force to help treat the injured. He also started looking into what had caused the crush.
At this point, this is South Korea’s deadliest disaster since 2014, when more than 300 people died when the Sewol ferry sank.
Itaewon is one of the best places to go out at night in Seoul. Every weekend, both locals and visitors go there, but Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year.
Saturday was the first Halloween since the start of the pandemic when people could get together in large groups and didn’t have to wear masks outside. About 100,000 people came to celebrate there.
It looks like the crowding started in a narrow, sloping alley that was too full of people. Social media photos and videos show that the alley was so crowded that people couldn’t move. People are struggling to breathe in one video. In another, rescue workers try to get people out of what looks like a pile of dead bodies. There are sounds of distress.
Blue blankets were spread over the bodies that were lined up along the street. Others were carried into ambulances while still dead. People in the crowd desperately gave CPR to those who were unconscious, and hundreds of emergency workers from all over the country came to help as well.
This morning, family members and friends of people who are missing have been going to the scene to look for clues about whether or not their loved ones were there.
But the bodies have been moved from the street to a gym so that family members can come look at them and figure out who they are. With so many victims, this will take time and is the top priority for the authorities right now. Jeon Ga-eul, who is 30 years old, was having a drink at a bar when the crush started.
“My friend told me that something awful is going on outside,” she told the AFP news agency. “I asked, “What are you saying?” Then I went outside to see what was going on, and I saw people giving CPR in the street.” A doctor who gave first aid at the scene said that when he started CPR, there were only two victims, but “soon after, the number exploded, and the first responders were outnumbered.”
Some people had said earlier in the evening on social media that Itaewon felt unsafe because it was so crowded.
One witness, Park Jung-Hoon, told the news agency Reuters that big crowds at Christmas and fireworks shows were normal, but “this was ten times bigger than any of that.”
A local journalist said that an emergency broadcast had been sent to every cell phone in the Yongsan District, telling people to get home as soon as possible because of “an emergency accident near the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon.”
The focus will probably move to the safety rules and crowd control measures that are in place at these events. President Yoon has already asked for a review of how safe the places where celebrations are held are.
Several leaders around the world have sent their condolences. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of Britain, and Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, both said that they were thinking of the people of South Korea.
Josep Borrell, who is in charge of foreign policy for the EU, said he was very sad, and Jake Sullivan, who is in charge of national security for the US, promised support.