Halloween Stampede in Seoul Leaves at Least 149 Dead

TEMPO.CO, Seoul – At least 149 people, mostly teenagers and young adults in their 20s, were killed in a stampede as large crowds celebrated Halloween walked into an alley in a nightlife area of ​​the South Korean capital Seoul on Saturday night, emergency officials said.

A further 65 people were injured in the melee SeoulItaewon District, Choi Sung-beom, chief of the Yongsan Fire Station, said in a briefing at the scene.

Nineteen of the injured were in serious condition and receiving emergency treatment, officials said, adding that the death toll could rise.

It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years after the country lifted COVID restrictions and social distancing. Many of the party goers wore masks and Halloween costumes.

Some witnesses described the crowd becoming increasingly restless and agitated as the evening deepened. The incident happened around 10:20 am (1320 GMT).

“A number of people fell during a Halloween festival, and we have a large number of victims,” ​​Choi said. Many of those killed were near a nightclub.

Many of the victims were women in their twenties, Choi said.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene moments before the stampede, with the police on hand in anticipation of the Halloween event sometimes having problems with keeping control of the crowd.


Moon Ju-young, 21, said there were clear signs of trouble in the alleys before the incident.

“It was at least 10 times more crowded than usual,” he said.

Social media footage showed hundreds of people packed into the narrow, sloping alleyway, crushed and immobile as emergency workers and police tried to pull them free.

Choi, the Yongsan District fire chief, said all the deaths were likely from the displacement in the single narrow alley.

Other footage showed chaotic scenes of fire officials and citizens treating dozens of people who appeared to be unconscious.

Fire officials and witnesses said people continued to pour into the narrow alley, which was already packed from wall to wall, when those at the top fell on the sloping street, sending people below them toppling over others.

Investigators examine the scene where many people died and were injured in a stampede during a Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji

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An unnamed woman, who said she was the mother of one survivor, said her daughter and others were trapped for more than an hour before being pulled from the stampede of people in the alley.

A Reuters witness said a makeshift morgue had been set up in a building next to the scene. About four dozen bodies were later carried out on wheelbarrows and moved to a government facility to identify the victims, according to the witness.

The Itaewon district is popular with young South Koreans and expatriates, its dozens of bars and restaurants packed on Saturday for Halloween after business suffered a sharp decline over three years of the pandemic.

“You would see big crowds at Christmas and fireworks … but this was several ten times bigger than any of that,” Park Jung-hoon, 21, told Reuters of the scene.

Two foreigners were among the dead, and others were transferred to nearby hospitals.

US President Joe Biden and his wife sent their condolences and wrote: “We mourn with the people of the Republic of Korea and send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured.”

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very troubling time.”

With the easing of the COVID pandemic, curfews on bars and restaurants and a limit of 10 people for private gatherings were lifted in April. An outdoor mask mandate was dropped in May.

Authorities said they were investigating the exact cause of the incident.

The disaster is among the deadliest in the country since a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.

The sinking of the Sewol, and the criticism of the official response, sent shock waves South Korea and has prompted widespread soul-searching about security measures in the country, which are likely to be renewed in the course of Saturday.

President Yoon Suk-yeol presided over an emergency meeting with senior aides and ordered that a task force be set up to secure resources to treat the injured and launch a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster.


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