Seoul Officials have confirmed the death of 149 people following a crowd surge at one of the biggest Halloween get-togethers on Saturday.
Most of the deaths are of teenagers and people in their 20s, emergency officials reported. Sixty-five people were injured in the melee, with 16 in critical condition, Choi Sung-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Station, said in a briefing at the scene. It’s possible the death toll could rise.
It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years post-COVID restrictions and social distancing.
Some witnesses said the crowd becoming increasingly unruly and agitated as the night went on.
“A number of people fell during a Halloween festival, and we have a large number of casualties,” Choi said.
Many of the victims were women in their twenties, Choi added.
Witnesses described chaotic scenes before the stampede occured, with the police on sight but having trouble controlling the crowd.
Moon Ju-young, 21, said there were clear signs of trouble in the alleys before the tragedy. Social media footage captured hundreds of people packed in the narrow, sloped alley crushed and immobile as emergency officials and police attempted to help them.
Choi, the Yongsan district fire chief, said all the deaths were likely from the crush in the alley.
Initially reports came that dozens of people were injured and needed CPR after tens of thousands of people gathered in the relatively tight alleyways to celebrate Halloween. It’s believed at some point a stampede occurred.
Videos across social media show countless people laid out on the floor in the streets of the popular neighborhood Itaewon. Dozens received chest compressions from both first responders and bystanders alike in the clips, TMZ reported.
It was a frantic scene, with many showing no signs of consciousness.
Authorities said they were investigating the exact cause of the incident. The incident is among the country’s deadliest since a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol sent out emergency services, and the mayor is on his way from an international trip to survey the damages.
U.S. President Joe Biden and his wife sent their condolences and wrote: “We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and send our best wishes for a quick recovery to all those who were injured.”