Halloween party stampede in Seoul leaves at least 151 dead, scores more injured after being crushed

At least 151 South Koreans died and 82 were injured from being horizontally or vertically crushed during a Halloween celebration Saturday evening KST in the capital city of Seoul.

Over 100,000 locals had descended into the “narrow” streets and alleyways of the neighborhood of Itaewon that evening to celebrate Halloween for the first time since South Korea “lifted Covid restrictions such as crowd limits and face mask rules,” according to CNN.

“But the festivities descended into chaos, with photos and videos on social media showing huge crowds crammed into a narrow alley. Eyewitnesses described partygoers being packed so tightly together it was difficult to move around or even breathe,” CNN reported Sunday.

Some partygoers were horizontally crushed, which is different from a stampede. In a stampede, people are essentially run over by large crowds. In this scenario, there were so many people tightly packed that some didn’t even have enough space to breath and thus died of asphyxiation.

Others meanwhile reportedly died of cardiac arrest.

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One male survivor described the scene as a “Halloween nightmare,” as reported by Al Jazeera.

“I heard voices calling for help, and I saw people who couldn’t breathe,” he told local media, adding that he himself had been trapped in the crowd for roughly an hour and a half before being rescued.

Another survivor told local media, “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.”

A third survivor “said he avoided being trampled by managing to get into a bar whose door was open in the alley … while another said she managed to make it out alive because she was standing off to the side,” according to Al Jazeera.

“[I] could survive as I was located on the sideline of the alley. It looks like people in the middle suffered the most,” the fourth survivor, a woman, said.

One woman, a mother, said she’d heard that her daughter — who she’s thus far been unable to locate — was buried under a pile of paper for over an hour.

“Her boyfriend called me around midnight, crying, saying she was dead, that she’d been under a pile of people for over an hour and that he’d tried to pull her out but couldn’t. I rushed here after getting his call but haven’t received confirmation,” the mother told local media.

Local authorities reportedly received the first emergency calls of victims being “buried” in the crowds at 10:24 p.m. KST.

However, it appears the initial response was slower than expected because, according to Seoul’s interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, “a considerable number of police and security forces” had already been deployed elsewhere that evening to deal with protests over something.

“Meanwhile in Itaewon, the crowd had not been unusually large, he said, so only a ‘normal’ level of security forces had been deployed there,” according to CNN.

But as the extent of the calamity in Itaewon became more evident, “a massive response” was launched.

“More than 1,700 emergency response forces were dispatched on Saturday night, including 517 firefighters, 1,100 police officials, and about 70 government workers,” CNN reported.

Even this wasn’t enough.

Speaking with local media, one emergency responder described seeing passers-by rushing in to help the overwhelmed workers.

“When I first attempted CPR, there were two victims lying on the pavement. But the number exploded soon after, outnumbering first responders at the scene. Many bystanders came to help us with CPR,” he said.

“It’s hard to put in words to describe. So many victims’ faces were pale. I could not catch their pulse or breath and many of them had a bloody nose. When I tried CPR, I also pumped blood out of their mouths,” he added.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol reportedly responded to the tragedy by expressing condolences for the victims, wishing a speedy recovery to survivors, and instituting a period of national mourning.

“A tragedy that should not have happened occurred in the middle of Seoul last night on Halloween. I pray for those who died in an unexpected accident and hope that the injured will recover quickly,” he said.

The president also vowed that there will be an inestigation.

“We will have relevant ministries such as the Ministry of the Interior and Safety conduct emergency inspections not only for Halloween events but also for local festivals and thoroughly manage them so they are conducted in an orderly and safe manner,” he said.


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