Halloween stampede in Seoul leaves at 153 dead, South Korea
At least 153 people were killed and 133 others were injured in a crowd surge on Saturday night, 29 October 2022, after Halloween celebrations turned deadly in the capital of South Korea. The stampede broke out in Itaewon, a popular district in Seoul among locals and foreigners alike because of its international cuisine and nightlife. Choi Sung-beom, the district chief at the Yongsan Fire Department, said 153 deaths had been confirmed, including 22 foreigners. He told a briefing at the scene 82 people were injured, 19 of them seriously.
Chief Choi Seong-Beom said the death toll could rise and it's still unclear the exact number of people in critical condition. Many of the victims were young adults.
Emergency workers from around the country were deployed to the district to treat the injured in a temporary medical centre. More than 140 ambulances were mobilised from across the country as well. Pictures and videos from the scene show first responders taking some of the dead and injured away on stretchers, while many covered bodies lay in the street. Some of the injured were sent to Seoul National University Hospital, Kyung Hee University Hospital at Gangdong and Hanyang University Hospital for treatment.
Choi, said all the deaths were likely from the crush in the alley. Fire officials and witnesses said people continued to pour into the alley after it was already packed wall-to-wall, when those at the top of the slope fell, sending people below them toppling over others.
Moon Ju-young, aged 21, an official at the National Fire Agency, said there were clear signs of trouble in the alley before the incident. He told reporters it was more than 10 times as crowded as usual.
A makeshift morgue was set up in a building next to the scene. About four dozen bodies were wheeled out on wheeled stretchers and moved to a government facility to identify the victims.
Social media footage showed hundreds of people packed in the narrow, sloped alley crushed and immobile as emergency officials and police tried to pull them free.
Video footage from the scene of the crush showed people performing emergency first aid on several victims who appeared to be prone on the pavement, while rescue workers rushed to help others.
Some 100 000 people were estimated to have flocked to the neighbourhood to celebrate Halloween, forming the biggest crowds seen in the area since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local media outlets report that the crowd surge is believed to have taken place off of a main street, in a narrow alley filled with bars and restaurants.
President Yoon Suk Yeol convened emergency meeting with senior aides and ordered a task force be set up. He ordered officials to deploy emergency personnel, secure hospital beds and treat the injured and launch a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-Hoon cut short a trip to Europe to return home.
Saturday's stampede is the deadliest known crowd disaster in South Korean history. In 2005, 11 people were killed and more than 50 others were injured during a pop concert in the southern city of Sangju.
This was at least the second deadly crowd surge documented this month. In early October, 125 people died near the gates at a soccer stadium in Indonesia, many of whom were trampled on or suffocated.
Even after the latest tragedy, partying continued on the side streets of Itaewon into the morning.
Sources: The Associated Press, The Mirror, News Week, Sky News