According to South Korean authorities, as the death toll in the disaster keeps rising, at least 153 people are dead and 82 injured after being trampled in a mob during Halloween celebrations in Seoul.
According to the National Fire Agency, most of the victims were in their 20s. 19 foreign nationals died, and ABC News has learned that two of them were Americans.
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea issued a proclamation on Sunday establishing a day of national mourning and sending his sympathies to the victims.
He declared in a statement, “This is absolutely awful. In the middle of Seoul last night, a catastrophe and disaster that shouldn’t have happened occurred.
The nation had eliminated COVID restrictions and social segregation, making it the first Halloween celebration in Seoul in three years. In addition to Halloween costumes, several partygoers wore masks.
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What Happened And Why Were The Crowd So Big?
With Halloween becoming more well-known in Asia in recent years, Itaewon has always been a favorite destination to spend the festival. For the celebrations, some people even travel into Seoul from other nations in the area. However, pandemic restrictions on crowd sizes and mask requirements have tempered celebrations over the past two years.
First Halloween since the nation relaxed these prohibitions fell on Saturday night, making it more significant for many eager participants in Seoul as well as for foreign citizens and tourists from other countries.
Hotels and activities with tickets in the area were fully booked months in advance, and big crowds were anticipated. Before the mob turned lethal, there was, according to witnesses, hardly any crowd management. People can be seen squeezed together and standing shoulder to shoulder in the congested street in social media videos and images.
Crowds are commonplace in that region and among Seoul residents, who are used to crowded streets and subways in their almost 10-million-person city. People’s frantic screams were conflicting with the music blasting from the nearby clubs and bars, according to one eyewitness, and it took some time for people to notice something was wrong.
Around 10:24 p.m., when the first emergency calls started coming in, authorities hurried to the scene, but the sheer number of individuals made it impossible to locate those who needed assistance. As partygoers waited for medical assistance, compressions were being applied to additional partygoers who were laying on the ground.
Thousands of individuals dressed up for Halloween added to the general disarray and commotion. One witness claimed to have heard a policeman shouting during the tragedy, but several partygoers confused him for one of the other guests. Authorities stated there were no fires or gas leaks on the scene, but they are still looking into what caused the crush.
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Seoul Halloween Stampede
More than 100,000 people crammed into Seoul’s Itaewon party district on Saturday. Images show partygoers unable to move before the stampede. Witnesses said emergency personnel only intervened until the crush became fatal. Authorities didn’t prepare for the expected influx of people.
Teens and young people flocked to the capital to celebrate Halloween for the first time in three years without Covid restrictions. As the festivities drew a large crowd, they were caught in a terrible stampede. At least 153 people died, with 82 injured, 19 seriously. 97 women, 57 males were slain. South Korea’s Interior and Safety Ministry recorded four teens and 96 20-somethings.
26 foreigners from China, Iran, Russia, France, the US, Australia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Austria, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Norway died. Two US citizens were killed, according to the embassy in Seoul. As the evening progressed, witnesses say the gathering grew “agitated.”
Before 10.20pm, a rush broke out as individuals were shoved down the tight, slanted lane, which was already jam-packed. Those at the top of the 147ft pathway fell, toppling those below them. Panicked revellers battled to breathe and slipped into cardiac arrest. Some others tried to scale the towers to escape the pressure, while others shouted for aid.
One witness characterized the bodies as a “tomb.” Despite being 320ft from the closest fire station, emergency workers struggled to reach victims due to traffic and overcrowding. One 14-year-old girl contacted police twice for help, but they didn’t respond. Seo Na-yeon and her companions felt the crowd was dangerous about 6pm, the New York Times says.
She warned authorities traffic control was essential, but she saw no police personnel regulating people, despite some relocating street vendors. Seo and her companions called the police again after becoming trapped in the alley’s crowd. Police didn’t intervene in the tragic rush.
Videos showed a pile of people jammed between buildings, some comatose and others reaching out to medics. Rescuers were observed pulling those stuck under dead bodies as field hospitals were set up. After the crush, survivors were seen on the pavement wrapped in foil blankets. Police said many individuals were given CPR on the streets and transferred to hospitals.
Hundreds of families filed missing person reports, causing stress. At 1am, a father was told his 20-year-old daughter had been killed. “This news came from nowhere,” he told Reuters. The accident is the deadliest since a 2014 boat sinking that killed 304 high school students.
By lunchtime, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min claimed at least 90% of the victims had been recognized. Foreign nationals and teens without identification cards caused delays. Images of the aftermath show bloody costumes and items in the street. There were warning indications 24 hours prior that the events were attracting too many people.
Large events like festivals require thorough disaster prevention preparations, but such regulations don’t apply to public locations with large crowds, thus there’s no obvious organisation in control. Woosuk University professor Kim Dae-jin said safety precautions should be made when thousands of people are gathering.
“Even if there is no event organiser, if a big number of people are expected to participate, it is vital for relevant institutions to take preventive measures to boost their disaster prevention efforts,” he said.
Two Americans Are Dead
According to the American embassy in Seoul, at least two Americans were among those slain in the catastrophic mob surge. The death of so many people last night, including two young Americans who were partying with their Korean friends and those from other countries, saddened U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Philip Goldberg.
President Biden expressed his sympathy in a tweet as well. “When we found out that at least two Americans were among the numerous people who died in Seoul, Jill and I were saddened. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this difficult moment, and we will keep on praying for everyone who was hurt to recover “President said.
Student Anne Gieske from the University of Kentucky was one of those who passed away, the institution said on Sunday. Gieske was a junior nursing student from Northern Kentucky who was participating in an education abroad programme in South Korea.
The institution reported that it had been in contact with two additional students and a faculty member who are also spending the semester in South Korea and has received confirmation that they are all safe.
“We will be there for the members of our neighbourhood who knew and adored Anne. Our community will also require our assistance because there are over 80 South Korean students studying at UK “In a message to the student body, university president Eli Capilouto remarked.
According to local media accounts, as of 9 p.m. Sunday local time, authorities claim that at least 26 foreign nationals died in the event. A representative for the embassy told NPR that it is coordinating with the local government and provide consular support to any concerned Americans.
South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo declared a day of national mourning in reaction to the disaster, lasting until midnight on November 5.
Itaewon’s neighbourhood of Yongsan in Seoul has been designated a special disaster area by the government. In accordance with this designation, the government will cover the costs of the deceased’s funeral, the treatment of the injured, and the financial support for the grieving relatives.
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