Over the weekend, approximately 154 people attending Halloween festivities in Itaewon, Seoul, died due to a crowd surge.
Itaewon, known for its nightclubs and fine dining, is a popular destination for locals and tourists. In addition, people flocked to the district over the weekend to celebrate Halloween. Experts estimate that over 100,000 people visited Itaewon, constituting the largest crowd in the district since the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation two years ago. But then things went downhill.
According to local media, the crowd surge began in an alley enveloped by bars and restaurants. The narrow road caused a high density of people, which eventually led to the disaster. Choi Seong-Beom, chief of the Yongsan fire department in Seoul, said the number of people in intensive care increases as time passes. However, according to Seoul media outlets, many of the victims were young adults.
“At the uphill end of this alley, people started pushing, and then people started falling down in front of them. And they were buried by others falling on top of them. So medics and bystanders tried to resuscitate people lying on the sidewalk,” a media respondent said.
“The largest group of these people were in their 20s, there to party and celebrate Halloween. All of the dead, including 26 foreigners – of whom two were Americans – have now been identified. Police and forensic investigators combed the alleyway for clues today. But the crowd surge’s precise cause is still unclear,” he added.
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A day of mourning for Seoul
Videos flooded social media during and after the mishap. Some depict people in the alley pressing each other out of the way of the crowd. Some eyewitnesses reported seeing people crushed by the sheer volume of people in the alleyway. Others in the area, meanwhile, posted videos of officials and emergency personnel carrying dead and injured people away from the scene.
The victims’ relatives and friends remembered the dead the following day. They brought flowers and weeping, still horrified by the disaster. The Seoul stampede marks the country’s deadliest crowd-related accident.
“They’re going to make consolation payments to bereaved families. They will cancel festivals, concerts and other activities during the mourning period. They’re going to set up public altars for people to mourn the dead,” said a local reporter.
“President Yoon Suk-yeol gave a televised speech. He said this incident should never have happened. He promised a thorough investigation and fundamental reforms to ensure the tragedy is never repeated.”
The cause of the incident
Aside from the alleyway’s size, the state government and investigators remain undecided about what caused the chaos in Seoul. Furthermore, the South Korean president vowed to investigate the disaster and punish those responsible, including officers who failed to detect the impending disaster.
Before the deadly disaster, there were calls for help.
“It looks like people will be squashed to death. There were too many people, and I barely got out. I think we need crowd control,” said one caller at 6:34 PM.
“There are so many people, and we are almost getting crushed to death,” called another person hours later.
“We are on the brink of having a major accident here,” said another caller an hour after that.
“Please do something about this street. I think people are going to die,” a caller warned minutes after.
“Can you come as quickly as possible? It looks like a very dangerous situation here right now,” said a victim an hour after.