South Korea Searches for Answers After 150 People Crushed during Halloween Celebration
Seoul's popular Itaewon district was the site of Sunday's massacre where crowds surged through a narrow alley in the packed nightlife area.
South Korea’s president has pledged a full investigation after at least 153 people were crushed to death during Halloween celebrations when crowds surged through a narrow alleyway in a packed nightlife area of Seoul, plunging the nation into mourning, reports the Guardian.
Excerpt from the Guardian: Yoon Suk-yeol designated Seoul’s popular Itaewon district a disaster zone after the deadliest crowd crush in South Korean history, describing it as "a tragedy … that should not have happened". An estimated 100,000 people had gathered in Itaewon, long a symbol of the capital’s freewheeling nightlife, on Saturday as the end of social distancing, mask mandates and other anti-Covid rules allowed the first Halloween party in three years. Revelers reported chaotic scenes due to the sheer volume of people on the streets well before the deadly crush occurred at about 10.20pm, when a large crowd, many wearing Halloween costumes, surged into a steep, narrow alleyway off the main thoroughfare near the Hamilton Hotel.
According to BBC News, Thousands of mainly young people had converged in Itaewon in the center of the South Korean capital of Seoul. It's a lively party spot with many narrow streets and alleys filled with bars and restaurants. Some accounts say more than 100,000 had descended on the area that evening. The neighborhood is served by Itaewon metro station, and videos on social media show streams of people arriving to celebrate Halloween from early evening on Saturday.
Excerpt from BBC News: Nuhyil Ahammed, 32, was in the crowd. The IT worker from India lives nearby and had been to Halloween parties in Itaewon before, but says things were very different this year. "It was crazy," he told the BBC. "From 5pm there were too many people on the streets. So I was thinking, what's it going to be like from seven or eight?" Around this time, social media messages were being posted online with people saying that the streets of the district were so crowded they felt unsafe. The first call to police from Itaewon came at 18:34 local time - several hours before the deadly crush took place in an alley off the main road. "That alley is really dangerous right now people going up and down, so people can't come down, but people keep coming up, it's gonna be crushed. I barely made it to get out but it's too crowded. I think you should control it," the caller said. The police officer asked if the caller meant that people weren't flowing well, that "they get crushed and fall, and then there's going to be a big accident?"
Forty-eight hours after Saturday's deadly Halloween stampede, the country is mourning the victims and searching for answers. The victims were mostly young adults, and among the dead are 26 foreigners from 14 countries, writes NPR.
Excerpt from NPR: President Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday declared a weeklong national mourning period, the second in the country's history. National flags fly at half-staff, and many public events are canceled or delayed. The police launched a 475-strong investigation team and scoured the scene with forensics officers on Monday.On Monday, local governments set up public mourning sites. Jeong Hye-yoon, 35, visited an altar near the scene. As a young woman living in a nearby neighborhood, she finds it "unbelievable and surreal" that a disaster of such magnitude happened in the heart of the city. "Large crowds gather in this area every year. But they were left on their own without any preparations to prevent a huge accident from happening," Jeong says.