At least 153 people died in a crowd at a Halloween celebration on the streets of Seoul, South Korea on Saturday (29/10), local authorities said.
The death toll continued to rise in the hours following the tragedy. Officials said more than 80 people were injured.
Video taken at the scene shows rescuers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, and rescuers trying to pull people trapped in the crowd. Some images also show bodies on the streets.
It is still unclear what caused the incident. But according to local authorities, the tragedy occurred at a high point from where some people fell, causing massive crushing.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called an emergency meeting to discuss the case.
According to Choi Seong-beom, chief of the Yongsan Fire Department in Seoul, most of the victims were young men in their 20s.
According to local authorities, the dead included 20 foreigners.
Police cordoned off the scene of the accident, while medical teams rushed the injured into ambulances.
Congested area ‘doesn’t seem safe’
100,000 revelers gather in Itaewon district to celebrate the first mask-free outdoor Halloween event since the pandemic began.
The area is a popular nightlife area in the South Korean capital. Although Halloween is not usually a big celebration in South Korea, Itaewon has an international cultural atmosphere and is a traditional place for these parties.
Posts on social media in the early hours of the morning showed that the Itaewon area was so crowded that some commented it was not safe.
“I saw a lot of doctors, a lot of ambulances, taking the bodies away one by one,” said BBC journalist Hosu Lee, who visited the site.
Lee said there were thousands of people in the crowd, many bodies covered in blue sheets and “a ton of police”.
“A lot of young people gathered here tonight. A lot of people came to party and club, dressed up, a lot of people I saw were upset and sad – there were disturbing scenes,” Lee said.
Photos and videos show several first responders and civilians appearing unconscious in the streets.
In one video, several rescuers appear to perform CPR on people in a narrow street.
In another, rescuers try to pull people out of what appears to be a pile of bodies after a crowd.
Another local journalist said an emergency broadcast was sent to all cell phones in Yongsan District, urging citizens to return home soon because of an “emergency accident near the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon.”
Rafael Rasheed, a regular in the area, told the BBC that before the tragedy, when he arrived at the scene, he noticed that there were more people in the neighborhood than he had seen before.
“At 10pm it was clear that there were a lot of people and that something was already happening at that time. There were tens of thousands of people there, the biggest number I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“It got to the point where they crushed us on the pavement and we even had to invade the street where there were cars.”
“At that point, we heard a lot of firefighters, ambulances and police trying to get through the crowd. No one really understood what was happening, but already several police officers were strongly urging people to leave the area as soon as possible.”
National Inquest and Mourning
Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said some of the dead could not yet be identified because they were under 17 and did not have identity cards like adults.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who held an emergency meeting, ordered a task force to help victims. He also demanded an inquiry into the cause of the incident.
“My heart is aching and I am struggling to deal with the pain,” Yoon announced as the nation mourned.
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