A rowdy Halloween celebration in the hip center of the South Korean capital turned into a grim procession of bodies on Saturday night, after at least 151 people were killed in the crush of a crowd that was stuck in a narrow roadway, according to the officials. The crowd had become trapped in the area.
According to a spokeswoman for the fire service, there were dozens more people hurt, and several of them were injured significantly.
Itaewon, which is located in the middle of Seoul and is known for its vibrant nightlife, played host to as many as 100,000 people in celebration of Halloween. Before coronavirus restrictions were imposed on the city two years ago, the holiday was a longtime favorite in the neighborhood. On Saturday night, however, young people flocked to parties instead of celebrating the holiday as they had in the past.
By the time Sunday AM arrived, partygoers dressed in costumes had abandoned the scene, which was littered with the remains of young partygoers and was ruled by anarchy and bewilderment. At news conferences, officials stated that they had no clear idea what caused the crush, nor did they know how the annual festival had so quickly devolved into the country’s worst peacetime tragedy since 2014. This was the first such tragedy to occur in the country since 2014.
Images of lifeless bodies heaped on top of each other and queues of rescue workers wheeling gurneys loaded with the dead flashed over social media, prompting the people of South Korea to demand answers and accountability.
A division commander for the Seoul police named Kim Geun-jin stated that as of four in the morning on Sunday, very little information could be released concerning the origin of the catastrophe because “identifying the victims is our first priority.” He went on to say that their forensic teams were working on identifying victims and gathering evidence from the scene.
Residents gathered in large numbers at hospitals and improvised mortuaries in the wee hours of Sunday morning in an attempt to locate their loved ones. According to Mr. Choi, the majority of those who were killed were in their teens or 20s. Mr. Choi mentioned that two non-locals were among the deceased, but he did not provide any information regarding their country of origin.
A makeshift morgue was set up at the Wonhyoro Multipurpose Indoor Gymnasium, which is located just to the west of Itaewon. Inside the makeshift morgue, the bodies of forty-five young people were laid out on the floor and covered with plastic sheets. Many of the partygoers were still dressed in the costumes they had put on for the evening’s festivities, making it easier for their distressed relatives to recognize them.
A high school student named Kim Seo-jeong, who was dressed in a traditional Chinese qipao in order to go clubbing in the area, mentioned that by the time it was 8 o’clock in the evening, the alleyway close to the Itaewon subway station was already too crowded to go through.
During a telephone interview, Ms. Kim stated, “We gave up an hour later and tried to turn around to go home but we could not travel in the other direction either.” However, they were unable to move in the opposite direction. “There were people pushing from behind us,” the witness said. There was a group of folks in front of us who were making their way down the hill in the opposite direction.
After some time had passed, a number of young men gave the hill a strong shove while yelling, “Push! Push!”
“The individual in front of me experienced a slip and fall, which caused me to fall as well. People behind me fell like dominoes,” Ms. Kim added. “There were people falling on top of me and there were people falling beneath me. I had such a hard time breathing. We yelled and cried for assistance, but the music was playing so loudly in the alley that our yells were drowned out.
Near a row of bars that included, among others, Oasis Bar & Cafe, Gathering, and Ravo — a blazing neon magnet for young people looking for a good time — the crush began at a narrow roadway right outside Exit 2 of the Itaewon subway station in Itaewon, one of Seoul’s more international and freewheeling neighborhoods. It took place in Itaewon, which is one of Seoul’s more international and freewheeling neighborhoods On a large sign, the words “Happy Halloween” were written in yellow, red, pink, and blue lettering.
At approximately 11 o’clock in the evening, officials started sending out notifications asking residents to stay away from Itaewon. A filmmaker named Benedict Manlapaz, who was in town from New York, arrived at the station around an hour later and saw that the streets were crowded with people. He said that the folks were “irritated,” and that some of them were crying.
According to Mr. Manlapaz, who is 23, “people were shoulder to shoulder.”
According to witnesses, it appeared as though the police were having difficulty keeping control of the crowds. And pictures of the scene that were uploaded to social media showed what appeared to be dozens of victims stacked atop one another in the cramped alleyway as rescue workers battled to remove them.
According to Ms. Kim, “our people are so oblivious to concerns regarding public safety.” “The administration ought to have dispatched a greater number of police officers to maintain order in the gathering. Even though there was a pandemic going on at the time, Itaewon nonetheless had a large throng for Halloween last year. Because the most of the pandemic limitations have been lifted, the administration ought to have been prepared for a far larger turnout this year.
At first, officials stated that a significant number of people who passed away had gone into cardiac arrest. Onlookers, including citizens, police officers, and emergency medical personnel, were witnessed administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to individuals who were lying unconscious on the ground. After some time had passed, a macabre procession of bodies draped in sheets or towels occurred before the first responders could begin transporting the remains away.
More than 800 first responders and law enforcement officials from throughout the country, including every available member of the force in Seoul, were dispatched to the scene in order to treat those who had been hurt.
However, emergency vehicles such as ambulances and police cars had a difficult time getting to and from the scene since the roads were congested and pedestrians were walking into the lanes of traffic.
Jeong Sol, 30 years old and from Seoul, stated that the weather was so severe that they couldn’t even see the road. “The crowd was so big that it had overflowed onto the roadway from the walkways,” the narrator said.
She continued by saying, “We were pushed around quite a bit.” Everyone was subjected to being pushed and pulled, regardless of their status.
Officials debunked a number of unproven hypotheses, one of which was that a gas leak was to blame for people congregating in the alleyway, but they could not offer any other potential explanation for what had taken place. Residents were instead left with no choice but to point the finger of blame onto the police and the already troubled president of the country.
The disaster, which is South Korea’s worst since the Sewol ferry sank in 2014, killing more than 300 people, is likely to add to the litany of political woes facing President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, who has dealt with low approval ratings and diplomatic misfires since taking office in May. Since taking office, President Yoon Suk Yeol has been in office, he has dealt with low approval ratings and diplomatic misfires.
According to the information provided by his office, Mr. Yoon told his cabinet, “The primary priority is to evacuate and save the victims.” We need to get them to a doctor as soon as possible so they can get the urgent care they need.
After a soccer match on October 1 in Malang, Indonesia, which ended with 125 people dying, this tragedy was Asia’s second crowd disaster in less than a month. A number of spectators were injured when they attempted to exit a stadium after police officers engaged in a struggle with disorderly fans and sprayed tear gas into the throng.
South Korea was inundated with condolences, including one from the Vice President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden. In a statement, he added, “The alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or more essential, and the links that bind our people to one another are stronger than they have ever been.” During this difficult time, the United States of America stands in solidarity with the Republic of Korea.