Seoul, South Korea
Most weekends, the slim alleys of Itaewon, the neon-lit nightlife district in South Korea’s capital Seoul, are busy with partygoers and vacationers. Now it’s the location of one of many nation’s worst disasters.
On Saturday evening, tens of 1000’s of individuals flooded into the world in central Seoul to rejoice Halloween – however panic erupted because the crowds swelled, with some witnesses saying it grew to become exhausting to breathe and unimaginable to maneuver.
By means of Sunday, the variety of lifeless climbed to 154, with dozens extra injured. Authorities have now launched an pressing investigation to learn the way what was purported to be an evening of celebration went so horribly mistaken, as households throughout the nation mourn and seek for lacking family members.
Right here’s what we all know to date.
Itaewon has lengthy been a well-liked place to rejoice Halloween, particularly as the vacation grew to become extra widespread in Asia in recent times. Some even fly into Seoul from different nations within the area for the festivities.
However for the previous two years, celebrations had been muted by pandemic restrictions on crowd sizes and masks mandates.
Saturday evening marked the primary Halloween because the nation lifted these restrictions – lending it specific significance for a lot of keen members in Seoul, in addition to worldwide guests together with international residents and vacationers.
Resorts and ticketed occasions within the neighborhood had been booked stable prematurely, and huge crowds had been anticipated.
Witnesses advised CNN there was little or no – if any – crowd management earlier than the mass of individuals turned lethal.
Movies and photographs posted to social media present folks crammed collectively, standing shoulder to shoulder within the slim road.
CNN reporter returns to Itaewon’s slim alley someday after the Halloween catastrophe. See what’s it like
Crowds usually are not uncommon for that space, or for Seoul residents, who’re used to jam-packed subways and streets in a metropolis of virtually 10 million.
One eyewitness stated it took a while for folks to comprehend one thing was mistaken, with folks’s panicked screams competing with music blaring from the encircling golf equipment and bars.
After the primary emergency calls got here in round 10:24 p.m., authorities rushed to the scene – however the sheer quantity of individuals made it tough to succeed in those that wanted assist.
Video posted to social media confirmed folks performing compressions on different partygoers mendacity on the bottom as they waited for medical help.
The 1000’s of individuals in Halloween costumes contributed to the widespread sense of confusion and chaos. One witness described seeing a police officer shouting through the catastrophe – however some revelers mistook him for one more partygoer.
The reason for the crush continues to be beneath investigation, although officers stated there have been no fuel leaks or fires on web site.
The casualties had been younger, largely of their teenagers and early 20s, authorities stated. Recognized for its nightlife and classy eating places, Itaewon is widespread amongst backpackers and worldwide college students.
Among the many 154 lifeless had been no less than 26 international nationals, based on authorities, with victims from nations together with america, China, Iran, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia, Norway, France, Russia, Austria, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
All however one of many victims have been recognized, South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated in a briefing on Monday. The toll included 56 males and 97 ladies, South Korea’s Inside and Security Ministry reported.
Survivors recount horror of Halloween catastrophe in Seoul
South Korea’s Ministry of Schooling stated Monday that six college college students had been among the many lifeless, together with one in center college. Three lecturers additionally died.
As of 5 p.m. native time Sunday (4 a.m. ET), the variety of injured had risen to 133, of whom 37 had been severely injured, the ministry stated.
The Seoul metropolis authorities stated greater than 4,000 lacking folks reviews had been obtained. That quantity may embody a number of reviews for a similar individual, or reviews filed Saturday evening for individuals who have since been discovered.
Police stated there isn’t any lively seek for these reported lacking as they imagine nobody went lacking from the scene; slightly, they stated the lacking individual reviews have been used to assist determine those that died.
Lee Sang-min, Minister of the Inside and Security, stated on Sunday that “a substantial quantity” of police and safety forces had been despatched to a different a part of Seoul on Saturday in response to anticipated protests there.
In the meantime in Itaewon, the gang had not been unusually giant, he stated, so solely a “regular” degree of safety forces had been deployed there.
Because the catastrophe unfolded Saturday evening, greater than 1,700 emergency response forces had been dispatched, together with greater than 500 firefighters, 1,100 police officers, and about 70 authorities staff.
President Yoon Suk Yeol referred to as an emergency assembly and urged officers to determine the lifeless as quickly as doable.
However even hours later, households had been nonetheless ready to seek out out if their family members survived.
Within the instant aftermath, many individuals had been transferred to close by services, whereas our bodies had been taken to a number of hospital mortuaries. Households gathered at websites close to the scene, the place officers had been compiling the names of the lacking and deceased.
Yoon promised to implement new measures to stop comparable incidents from occurring once more, saying the federal government would “conduct emergency inspections not just for Halloween occasions but in addition for native festivals and completely handle them so they’re carried out in an orderly and secure method.”
The federal government may also present psychological remedy and a fund for households of the deceased and injured. Authorities have declared a nationwide mourning interval till November 5, and designated the district of Yongsan-gu, the place Itaewon is positioned, a particular catastrophe space.
As a surprised and grieving nation grapples with the tragedy, questions are additionally rising about how such a catastrophe may have unfolded in a well-liked space the place persons are recognized to collect.
It’s exhausting to pinpoint what may need triggered the crush – however authorities “would have anticipated excessive numbers … earlier than Saturday evening,” stated Juliette Kayyem, a catastrophe administration knowledgeable and nationwide safety analyst for CNN.
“There’s a accountability on the a part of the authorities to be monitoring crowd quantity in actual time, to allow them to sense the necessity to get folks out,” she added.
Suah Cho, 23, was caught up within the crowd however managed to flee right into a constructing alongside the alley. When requested whether or not she had seen any officers attempting to restrict the variety of folks getting into the alley, she replied: “Earlier than the incident, under no circumstances.”
One other eyewitness described the state of affairs getting “worse and worse,” saying they might hear “folks asking for assist for different folks, as a result of there weren’t sufficient rescuers that may simply deal with all that.”