Seoul Halloween: at least 146 dead during the festivities
Seoul, South Korea
According to Choi Seong-bum, fire chief of Yongsan-gu, at least 149 people were killed Saturday night in an incident during Halloween festivities in Seoul’s Itaewon nightclub district.
At least 150 other people are also believed to have been injured, the chief added.
Authorities are still investigating the exact cause of the incident, but the fire chief said it was a “suspected stampede” in the narrow streets and many people fell, causing casualties. The chief said he received reports of people “buried” in the crowd as of 10:24 p.m. local time on Saturday evening.
The cause of the incident has not been confirmed, but the chief said there was no gas leak or fire at the scene. Most of the victims are teenagers and people in their twenties, he said..
Earlier, Yonhap news agency reported that some people had suffered “cardiac arrest”, blaming the firefighters for the statement. Emergency officials helped at least 81 people in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, citing “difficulty breathing”.
Dozens of injured people have been transferred to nearby hospitals, said Choi Jae-won, the head of the Yongsan health center, adding that the death toll is likely to rise.
The Seoul city government is also receiving reports of missing persons as there are many unidentified victims. The bodies of the victims are transferred to several hospital morgues, according to the authorities.
People arrive in Seoul from all over Asia to celebrate Halloween in the nightlife district of Itaewon. Hotels and ticketed events in the neighborhood were sold out ahead of this weekend’s festivities.
A witness described a chaotic scene to CNN, saying he saw people stuck in a narrow street unable to breathe.
“I saw people going to the left side and I saw the person going to the opposite side. So the person in the middle got stuck so they had no way to communicate, they couldn’t breathe” , Sung Sehyun told CNN He said the space looked like a “blocked subway.”
Police cordoned off the area and videos on social media showed people lying in the streets and on stretchers as first responders brought help.
The fire chief said more than 1,700 emergency response forces were dispatched, including 517 firefighters, 1,100 police officers and about 70 civil servants.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol sent a disaster medical assistance team to the Halloween incident and ordered authorities to ‘quickly’ identify victims for the sake of concerned families, secretary says Senior Presidential Public Relations Kim Eun-hye.
Yoon immediately activated an emergency management headquarters under Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and ordered Interior and Security Minister Lee Sang-min to investigate the cause of the incident. , said Kim.
The president also ordered authorities to secure emergency beds at nearby hospitals and implement rapid rescue and treatment operations, presidential spokesman Lee Jae-Myung said during a briefing.
Yoon was in an emergency meeting regarding the situation, the presidential office said in a statement.
The US government is ready to provide South Korea with “all the support it needs”, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
“The reports from Seoul are heartbreaking. We are thinking of all those who have lost loved ones and hope for a speedy recovery for those injured. The United States stands ready to provide the Republic of Korea with any support it needs,” Sullivan wrote.