Over the weekend, around 154 individuals joining the Halloween festivities died following a crowd surge in Itaewon, Seoul.
Itaewon, famed for its nightlife and international cuisine, is a place of merry for many locals and tourists. Over the weekend, people flocked to the district to celebrate Halloween. According to experts, more than 100,000 people went to Itaewon, comprising the biggest crowd in the district since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country two years ago. But things went south from there.
Local media believed the crowd surge started at an alley surrounded by bars and restaurants. The narrow road caused the high density of the crowd, eventually leading to the disaster. Choi Seong-Beom, the Yongsan fire department chief in Seoul, said the number of people under intensive care remains unclear. Seoul media firms added a vast fraction of the victims were young adults.
“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. Medics and bystanders tried to resuscitate people who were 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 precise cause of the crowd surge is still not clear,” he added.
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People mourn for the victims in Seoul
During and after the incident, videos overflowed on social media. Some show the people in the alleyway pushing each other out of the crowd. Some eyewitnesses recounted seeing some people crushed by the overwhelming number of people in the alleyway. Meanwhile, others in the area posted videos of officials and emergency respondents carrying dead and injured individuals from the scene.
The morning after the incident, victims’ relatives and friends commemorated the dead, bringing flowers and weeping as they remained stunned by what happened. The Seoul stampede serves as the deadliest crowd-related accident in the nation’s history.
“They’re going to make consolation payments to bereaved families. They’re going to cancel festivals, concerts and other activities during the mourning period. And 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.”
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The cause of the disaster
Apart from the size of the alleyway, the state government and investigators remain uncertain as to what caused the stampede in Seoul. However, the government assured citizens to investigate the matter. Furthermore, the South Korean president promised to get to the bottom of the disaster and reprimand the people responsible, including officers who failed to monitor the impending disaster.
Calls for help echoed before the deadly disaster broke out.
“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 really 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.
Photo Credit: Kim Jong-Hi