At least 151 killed in Seoul Halloween crowd surge

At least 151 killed in Seoul Halloween crowd surge
At least 151 killed in Seoul Halloween crowd surge

At least 153 people were killed and dozens injured following a crowd crush during Halloween celebrations in Seoul, marking one of the deadliest incidents in South Korea in years.

The crowd surge occurred Saturday night in the popular nightlife district of Itaewon, after a large number of people entered a narrow alley behind the Hamilton Hotel, fire and police authorities said in televised briefings. President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a period of national mourning from Sunday and vowed to carry out a thorough investigation.

“We had a tragedy last night at the center of Seoul during Halloween that should have not occurred,” Yoon said in a televised speech Sunday. The government will give its “highest priority to the accident responses and follow-up measures,” he said.

Of the dead, 97 were women, according to Yonhap News. There were 20 foreigners among those killed, including nationals from China, Iran, Russia and the US, it said. The injured numbered 82, and 19 of them were in serious condition. Some of the people who died have yet to be identified.

Tens of thousands of people were estimated to have gathered in Itaewon for the Halloween festivities, the first since South Korea last month lifted Covid-19 restrictions requiring outdoor mask-wearing. Pictures and videos posted online showed some streets so packed that people could barely move.

After the crush, footage showed people lying in the streets receiving first aid and being taken to ambulances. About 1,700 emergency workers were dispatched to Itaewon, with 144 vehicles mobilized, authorities said earlier.

Yoon convened emergency meetings early Sunday, ordering ministries to provide swift first aid and treatment to those injured in the accident and to review safety measures. The government will provide medical support to the injured and offer funeral support to families of the deceased, he said at a briefing.

Investigations will be carried out to identify the cause of the crush and prevent similar accidents in the future, he added. Officials said there was no immediate signs that narcotics were involved.

Relevant authorities will conduct emergency inspections for Halloween events as well as other local festivals and ensure they are carried out in an orderly and safe manner, Yoon said.