At least 153 people died during a crowd at a Halloween celebration in the streets of Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday (29/10), according to local authorities.
The death toll increased more and more in the hours following the tragedy. Authorities said more than 80 people were injured.
Video captured at the scene shows rescuers performing CPR or CPR, and rescue workers trying to pull people trapped in the crowd. Some photos also show corpses in the streets.
The cause of the accident is not yet clear. But according to the local authorities, the tragedy occurred in an elevated area, where some people fell, causing a huge rush.
South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
According to Choi Seong-beom, chief of the Yongsan Fire Department in Seoul, most of the victims are young people in their twenties.
According to local authorities, 20 foreigners were among the dead.
Police cordoned off the site of the crash, while medical teams transported the injured in ambulances.
Crowded area ‘doesn’t look safe’
Supposedly 100,000 revelers gathered in Itaewon province to celebrate the first outdoor mask-free Halloween event since the pandemic began.
The area is a popular area for nightlife in the capital of South Korea. While Halloween is not a big celebration in South Korea in general, Itaewon has an international cultural vibe and is the traditional venue for these parties.
Posts on social media in the early evening show that some people are commenting that Itaewon was too crowded to feel safe.
Hosu Lee, a BBC correspondent who visited the site, said he saw “a lot of doctors, a lot of ambulances, taking the bodies one by one”.
There were thousands in the crowd, several bodies covered in blue sheets, Lee said, along with “a ton of police.”
“A lot of young people gathered here tonight. A lot of people came to the party and the club dressed up and a lot of the people I saw were upset and sad – there are chaotic scenes,” Lee said.
Photos and videos show many first responders and civilians tending to appear unconscious on the streets.
In one of the videos, several rescuers appear to be performing CPR on people on a narrow street.
In another case, rescuers are trying to get people out of what appears to be a pile of corpses after a gathering.
Another local journalist said an emergency broadcast had been sent to all mobile phones in Yongsan District, urging citizens to return to their homes as soon as possible due to an “emergency accident near the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon”.
Rafael Rashid, a regular in the area, told the BBC that when he arrived at the scene, before the tragedy, he noticed there were more people in the neighborhood than he had seen before.
“By 10 p.m., it was obvious that there were a lot of people and something was really going on at that moment. There were tens of thousands of people, the most I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“It got to the point where they crushed us on the sidewalk, we even had to break into the street where there were cars.”
“At that moment we heard a lot of firefighters, ambulances and police trying to cross the crowd. No one really understood what was happening, but there were already many police officers desperately asking people to leave the area as soon as possible.”
National investigation and mourning
Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said some of the dead had not yet been identified because they were under 17 and did not have an identity card like adults.
After holding an emergency meeting, South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol ordered a task force to assist the victims. He also called for an investigation into the cause of the accident.
“My heart aches as I struggle to deal with the pain,” Yoon said in a declaration of national mourning.
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