Seoul Halloween crush: 151 mostly young people dead, scores hurt in South …
The Independent

Celebration turned to tragedy on Saturday night after more than 150 people were killed during a stampede in the South Korean city of Seoul.

The victims, mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, were enjoying Halloween festivities in the popular Itaewon district, when a huge crowd surged into a narrow downhill alley, leading to one of the country’s worst disasters in decades.

The area is known for its nightlife – its streets lined with trendy bars, restaurants and clubs – so it was an obvious choice for hoards of young people looking to have a good time.

So far, 151 deaths have been confirmed, including 22 foreigners, according to the head of the local fire service.

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More than 82 people were injured, 19 seriously, as families continue to frantically search hospitals for their loved ones.

As of midday local time (3am UK), South Korea’s Interior Ministry said at least 90 per cent of the victims had been identified. Those who have yet to be accounted for are foreign nationals and teenagers who didn’t have identification cards with them.

The country’s President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning on Sunday, announcing in a statement that it was “a tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul."

What caused the deadly crush?

It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years to be virtually free of Covid restrictions and social distancing, so partygoers would have been feeling particularly jubilant.

Many of those killed were near a nightclub, where witnesses described the crowd becoming increasingly unruly and agitated as the evening progressed.

Chaos erupted just before 10.20 pm local time (1.20pm UK time), with police on hand for the event at times struggling to control the crowds, witnesses said.

Moon Ju-young, 21, said there were clear signs of trouble in the alley before the incident. He told Reuters it was more than 10 times as crowded as usual.

Social media footage showed hundreds of people packed in the sloped alley crushed and immobile as emergency officials and police tried to pull them free.

Fire officials and witnesses said people continued to pour into the alley after it was already packed wall-to-wall, when those at the top of the slope fell, sending people below them toppling over others.

One woman said her daughter, pulled from the crush of people, survived after being trapped for more than an hour.

What do we know about the victims?

Many of the victims were women in their 20s, according to fire chief Choi Sung-beom.

The foreigners killed included people from China, Iran, Uzbekistan and Norway, he said.

How have world leaders responded?

World leaders have expressed their sadness for the people of South Korea, with US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden sending their “deepest condolences” to the families of the deceased.

“We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish for a quick recovery to all those who were injured,” Biden tweeted in the aftermath of the disaster. “The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time.”

Similarly, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the news from Seoul as “horrific”.

“All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very distressing time,” Sunak also wrote on Twitter.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron — who tweeted in both French and in Korean — offered support to Seoul residents and South Korea.

“France is with you,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed similar sentiments on Twitter, sending his “deepest condolences” to the people of South Korea “and wishing a fast and full recovery to those who were injured.”

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