South Korea declares nationwide mourning after Halloween kills 151

Rescue employees load a stretcher with a sufferer of a Halloween crush, which killed not less than 150 individuals, into an ambulance in Seoul’s Itaewon district on October 30, 2022.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Photographs

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a interval of nationwide mourning on Sunday after a Halloween crush killed some 151 individuals in a crowded nightlife space in Seoul.

Yoon expressed his condolences to the victims, principally youngsters and other people of their twenties, and his needs for a speedy restoration to the injured.

“It is actually tragic,” he stated in an announcement. “A tragedy and catastrophe that ought to not have occurred passed off within the coronary heart of Seoul final night time.”

An enormous crowd celebrating within the fashionable Itaewon neighborhood burst into an alley Saturday night time, emergency officers stated, including the dying toll might rise.

Choi Sung-beom, chief of the Yongsan hearth station, stated 151 deaths had been confirmed, together with 19 foreigners. He instructed a briefing on the scene that 82 individuals had been injured, 19 of them critically.

It was the primary Halloween occasion in Seoul in three years after the nation lifted Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing. Many revelers wore Halloween masks and costumes.

Some witnesses described the gang changing into more and more unruly and agitated because the night progressed. The incident occurred round 10:20 p.m. (1:20 p.m. GMT).

“Plenty of individuals fell throughout a Halloween pageant, and we’ve numerous casualties,” Choi stated. Lots of these killed had been close to a nightclub.

You’d see huge crowds at Christmas and fireworks…however it was many occasions greater than all that.

Lots of the victims had been girls of their twenties, whereas foreigners killed included nationals of China, Iran, Uzbekistan and Norway, Choi stated.

Witnesses described chaos moments earlier than the stampede, with police on web site forward of the Halloween occasion typically struggling to maintain crowds beneath management.

Moon Ju-young, 21, stated there have been clear indicators of unrest within the alleys earlier than the incident. “There have been not less than 10 occasions extra individuals than regular,” he instructed Reuters.

Social media footage confirmed a whole lot of individuals crammed into the slim, sloping driveway, crushed and immobile as emergency officers and police tried to free them.

Choi, the Yongsan district hearth chief, stated all the deaths had been probably because of the crash within the single slim alley.

Fireplace officers and witnesses stated individuals continued to stream into the driveway which was already packed, when these on the high of the sloping road fell, sending individuals under them toppling over others.

A lady stated her daughter, pulled from the crush of individuals, survived after being trapped for greater than an hour.

A makeshift morgue was arrange in a constructing subsequent to the stage. In accordance with a Reuters witness, about 4 dozen our bodies had been transported on wheeled stretchers and brought to a authorities facility to establish the victims.

The Itaewon district is fashionable with younger South Koreans and expats, its dozens of bars and eating places packed on Saturday for Halloween after companies suffered a pointy drop in three years of the pandemic.

“You’d see huge crowds at Christmas and fireworks… however it was many occasions greater than all that,” Park Jung-hoon, 21, instructed Reuters from the scene.

US President Joe Biden and First Woman Jill Biden despatched their condolences, writing, “We mourn with the individuals of the Republic of Korea and lengthen our greatest needs for a speedy restoration to all those that have been injured.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted: “Our hearts exit to these at the moment responding and to all South Koreans at this very making an attempt time.”

With the Covid pandemic subsiding, bar and restaurant curfews and the 10-person restrict on personal gatherings had been lifted in April. An outside masks mandate was dropped in Might.

President Yoon held an emergency assembly with high-level aides and ordered the institution of a activity pressure to safe sources to deal with the injured and launch a radical investigation into the reason for the catastrophe.

The catastrophe is among the nation’s deadliest because the sinking of a ferry in 2014 that killed 304 individuals, principally highschool college students.

The sinking of the Sewol and criticism of the official response despatched shockwaves by South Korea, prompting widespread soul-searching over safety measures within the nation which might be more likely to be renewed within the wake of the crash. of Saturday.