One of the most difficult disasters facing South Korea is Seoul’s Halloween party, which has turned into a nightmare.
Authorities declared a nationwide period of mourning. Additionally, they are now investigating how the devastating stampede caused 151 deaths.
Tens of thousands of costumed Halloween party-goers flocked to Itaewon’s famous nightlife to celebrate the spooky season. These include teenagers and young adults.
It’s the first time South Korea has opened its celebrations in nearly three years and since it relaxed COVID protocols like crowd restrictions and face mask wearing.
But the Halloween event was messy. Photos and videos on social media showed people crowding into small alleys. According to eyewitnesses, the partygoers were so tightly packed that it was difficult to move and breathe.
A 23-year-old eyewitness named Suah Cho said she was moving past the alley when “suddenly, some people started pushing each other. And people were screaming.”
She said the screaming lasted for about 15 minutes. Then, she added: “It was just panic.”
“Some people were going forward. And some people were going backward. And then just they were pushing each other,” she continued.
According to Cho, she left the mob through a building in the alley where she discovered the incident. Moreover, she said a few people had said, “people were climbing the building to survive.”
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Probe on Halloween Crush
An investigation by the authorities is underway. However, Yongsan-gu Fire Department’s chief, Choi Seong-bum, stated that it was a “presumed stampede.” He added that several individuals fell and injured the other 82.
Meanwhile, those deaths included about 19 foreign nationals – people from Norway, Iran, Uzbekistan, and China, he said. According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, one Thai national is counted among the dead.
Saturday’s incident fell into shock and mourning all over the country on Sunday. Victims’ families gathered at a nearby place in Itaewon. Officials were compiling the name of the dead and missing, with families racing to identify bodies.
Over 90% of those killed have been identified, according to the Minister of Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min on Sunday.
Moreover, he said they couldn’t identify around ten individuals because some were under 17 and others were foreigners. 17-year-olds are too young to have a national ID card.
However, several are still missing. Families race to call hospitals and visit morgues. Seoul authorities accumulated over 2,580 missing person reports on Sunday, per the city government.
While the government started a probe and vowed to implement new actions to avoid the same incident, many still raised questions about the nature of the incident.
Cho stated that she didn’t see any police or officials attempting to control the situation ahead of the devastating crush. And following their arrival, confusion and panic are still evident.
“The police officer was screaming. But we couldn’t really tell that was a real police officer because so many people were wearing costumes,” she stated. “People were literally saying, ‘Are you a real police officer?’”
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