At least 153 killed in crowd crush during Halloween parties in Seoul, South Koea
South Korea was plunged into mourning following the deaths of at least 153 people who were crushed and trampled to death in a narrow alley during Halloween parties in Itaewon, a packed area of Seoul.
An estimated 100,000 people, many in costume, had gathered in Itaewon on Saturday night as the lifting of social distancing, mask mandates and other anti-Covid measures cleared the way for the first Halloween party in three years.
Revellers reported chaotic scenes caused by the sheer volume of people on the streets before the deadly crush occurred shortly after 10pm. Many of the alleyways off the main thoroughfare in the area are narrow and sloped.
It was on one such sloped street, located near the Hamilton Hotel and little more than four metres wide, that so many were killed and injured.
President Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday declared a state of official national mourning during a live address on the tragedy.
“As president, who is responsible for the people’s lives and safety, my heart is heavy and I struggle to cope with my grief,” Yoon said. “The government will designate the period from today until the accident is brought under control as a period of national mourning and will place top priority on administrative affairs in recovery and follow-up measures.”
It was feared the death toll may rise further, as about 20 of the 82 injured were reported to be in serious condition in hospitals around the South Korean capital.
Witnesses reported seeing crowds surging in different directions and then people losing their footing on the slope, causing a domino effect. Videos posted online showed people trying to pull others out from the crush by their arms.
A witness posted on Twitter: “People kept pushing down into a downhill club alley, resulting in other people screaming and falling down like dominos. I thought I would be crushed to death too as people kept pushing without realising there were people falling down at the start of the stampede.”
Itaewon is known as an international district in Seoul and a US military base was located nearby until recently. Nineteen non-Koreans were reported to be among the dead, including people from China, Iran, Norway and Uzbekistan.