Halloween celebrations in Seoul’s Itaewon area took a turn for the worse when the crowded streets caused a stampede, killing 154 people. Reportedly, 100,000 people had converged in Itaewon to celebrate Halloween in the area’s many bars and restaurants. The massive crowd got out of hand, and waves of people began pushing their way through narrow alleys.
“People began pushing from behind, it was like a wave – there was nothing you could do,” Nuhyil Ahammed (32), who was out celebrating with a group of friends, told BBC. “Even if you were standing still, someone was pushing you from the back and from the front.”
Police said that they failed to notice when the crowd suddenly became uncontrollable.
“It was foreseen that a large number of people would gather there. But we didn’t expect that large-scale casualties would occur due to the gathering of many people,” BBC quoted Hong Ki-hyun, chief of the National Police Agency’s Public Order Management Bureau.
At 2:30 AM local time, authorities confirmed the first death toll of 59 people, with 150 others being injured. This number has since risen to 154 confirmed casualties. Many of them were teenagers and young people in their 20s. So far, the police have spoken to 44 witnesses and brought in footage from 52 CCTV cameras to probe further into the incident.
President Yoon Suk-yeol called for an emergency meeting and declared a thorough investigation into why this tragedy unfolded. He also announced a period of national mourning on Sunday morning. Further, the government will provide upto 15 million won, or $10,500, to the victim’s families to cover funeral costs. A designated civil servant will help make the arrangements for each family.
The nation has since been grieving the victims and paying condolences to their families. The President and his wife, among thousands of other citizens, paid their respects at a joint memorial altar at Seoul City Hall Plaza. Mourners visited another memorial outside Itaewon station, and gathered at a vigil led by monks near Itaewon alley.
A moving memorial at #Seoul’s City Hall for the victims of the #Itaewon disaster. Members of the public have been lining up throughout the day to lay a white flower, standing in silence to pay their respects. It’s a city still lost in shock and disbelief pic.twitter.com/7CyHeTJN9d
— Nicola Smith (@niccijsmith) October 31, 2022