Seoul Halloween Crush Kills 154 in Korea | Quinn Satterlund
A Halloween stampede on Sunday, in Seoul, South Korea, has claimed the lives of over 150 people, including two Americans.
Additionally, Korean authorities have stated that 130 more have been injured, 19 of which are in critical condition. Most of the victims were young adults, ranging in their 20s and 30s, in Seoul's Itaewon neighborhood. The popular nightlife district in Seoul was hosting Halloween celebrations, which was the first time the festivities had taken place since 2020. Around 100,000 people were drawn to the festival, something the area was unprepared for. As reported by local media, many were attempting to gather in a narrow alley filled with bars and restaurants when the surge began.
According to the Associated Press, on Sunday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a national mourning period of one week and ordered flags at government buildings and public offices to fly at half-mast. During a nationally televised speech, Yoon said supporting the families of the victims, including their funeral preparations, and the treatment of the injured would be a top priority for his government.
He also called for officials to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and review the safety of other large cultural and entertainment events, including regional festivals, to ensure that they proceed safely.
“This is really devastating. The tragedy and disaster that need not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul amid Halloween (celebrations),” Yoon said during the speech. “I feel heavy-hearted and cannot contain my sadness as a president responsible for the people’s lives and safety.”
Information is still being revealed as to what exactly caused the deadly surge, but shocking videos seen across social media have depicted the abrupt chaos in the alley as it occurred.
Many bystander accounts have described the situation as hell-like, with one eyewitness telling a local news network that it was shocking to see the rows of bodies near the hotel. He said emergency workers were initially overwhelmed, leaving pedestrians struggling to administer CPR to the injured lying on the streets, as people wept next to the bodies of their friends.
In the hours after the tragedy occurred, many were still stuck in the Itaewon district, searching for their friends. Nathan Taverti, an Australian on vacation in Korea with 3 friends. Taverti, 24, told NPR that "I was there the whole night. Some people fell in front of me, and I lost a group of my friends," he said. "Somehow, I got out, but all three of my friends ... two are in hospital, and one has passed away. There was no police. There was nobody to help me," he said. "It was just me and other bystanders. And I couldn't do anything." Many locals have echoed Taverti’s concerns, with The Korean Herald reporting that authorities nearby had struggled to get to the scene and to the hundreds of victims of the stampede. The outlet quotes Interior Minister Lee Sang-min saying that the crush did not seem to be "an incident that could have been prevented by deploying more police or fire officers."
Hopefully, more information will be released in the coming days as to what exactly happened, and the questions many have will be resolved.