Crush kills at least 151 people at Halloween festival in Seoul

Seoul, South Korea — A crowd of mostly young people celebrating Halloween in Seoul was trapped and crushed when the mob flooded into a narrow alley, killing at least 151 people and injuring 82 others in the carpet. Korea’s worst disaster in years.

Emergency workers and pedestrians desperately performed CPR on people lying on the street after getting drunk in the capital’s nightlife district of Itaewon on Saturday night.

According to Choi Seong-beom, director of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department, those killed or injured were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s. Those killed included 19 foreigners, he said, Nationals are not released immediately. The death toll could rise further as 19 of the injured are in critical condition.

An estimated 100,000 people gathered in Itaewon for the country’s largest outdoor Halloween festival since the pandemic began and strict regulations on gatherings were enforced. The South Korean government has eased COVID-19 restrictions in recent months and this is the first big opportunity to go out and party for many young people.

Although Halloween is not a traditional holiday in Korea, where children rarely go trick or treat, it is still a major attraction for young people and costume parties at bars and clubs. The club has become extremely popular in recent years.

Itaewon, near where the US military headquarters in South Korea once operated before leaving the capital in 2018, is a foreign-friendly district known for its trendy bars, clubs and restaurants and is the city’s popular Halloween destination.

Officials initially said 150 people were injured as of Sunday morning before the count was lowered.

National Fire Service officials did not immediately explain why the tally was cut but said emergency workers would have a more accurate idea of ​​casualties once rescue operations were underway. and some injured will be converted to death. It is also possible that some of those with minor injuries returned home overnight and were no longer counted.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a time of national mourning on Sunday and ordered the flags to be flown at government buildings and at half-staff. In a televised address, Yoon said supporting the families of the victims, including preparing their funerals and treating the injured, would be a top priority for his government.

He also urged officials to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and review the safety of other major cultural and entertainment events, including regional festivals, to ensure that they take place. out safe.

“This is truly devastating. Unnecessary tragedy and disaster happened in the heart of Seoul in the midst of Halloween (celebration),” Yoon said in the speech. “I feel heavy and unable to hold back my sadness as a president responsible for the lives and safety of his people.”

After the speech, Yoon visited Itaewon alley where the disaster happened. Local television footage showed Yoon checking out a trash-filled alley and was briefed by emergency officials.

It remains unclear what caused the crowds to flood into the downhill alley near the Hamilton Hotel, a major party venue in Seoul. One survivor said many people fell and toppled others “like pandas” after they were pushed by others. The survivor, surnamed Kim, said they were trapped for about an hour and a half before being rescued, as some shouted “Help me!” and others were out of breath, according to Seoul-based newspaper Hankyoreh.

Another survivor, Lee Chang-kyu, said he saw about five to six men jostling others before one or two began to fall, according to the newspaper.

In an interview with YTN news channel, Hwang Min-hyeok, a visitor to Itaewon, said he was shocked to see a mass of bodies near the hotel. He said emergency workers were initially overwhelmed, making it difficult for passersby to perform CPR on injured people lying on the street. People mourn next to the bodies of their friends, he said.

Another survivor in his 20s said he avoided being trampled by trying to enter the bar with open doors in the alley, Yonhap news agency reported. A woman in her 20s, surnamed Park, told Yonhap that she and others were standing along the side of the alley while others were caught in the middle of the alley with no way out.

Choi, the police chief of the fire department, said that the bodies were being sent to hospitals or gyms, where bereaved family members could identify them. He said most of the dead and wounded were in their 20s.

“Horrible news from Seoul tonight,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on Twitter.

Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, tweeted that the reports of the disaster were “heartbreaking” and said Washington was “ready to provide South Korea with any assistance it needs.”

This last deadly disaster in South Korea also hit young people hardest. In April 2014, 304 people, mostly high school students, died in a ferry sinking. The sinking exposed lax safety rules and regulatory errors; Part of the reason is that the cargo is too heavy and not fastened and the crew is poorly trained for emergency situations. Saturday’s deaths will likely draw public scrutiny of what government officials have done to improve public safety standards since the ferry disaster.

It was also Asia’s second-biggest crushing disaster in a month. On October 1, police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a football match, causing a tragic incident that left 132 people dead as spectators tried to flee.

More than 1,700 responders across the country were deployed to the streets to help the injured, including about 520 firefighters, 1,100 police officers and 70 government employees. The National Fire Service said separately in a statement that officials were still trying to determine the exact number of emergency patients.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement calling on officials to ensure prompt treatment of the injured and review the safety of festival venues.

This is the deadliest disaster in Korean history. In 2005, 11 people were killed and about 60 others injured at a pop concert in the southern city of Sangju.

In 1960, 31 people died after being crushed on the stairs of a train station when crowds rushed to board the train during the Lunar New Year holidays.


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