Saturday, October 29, over 150 people were crushed to death in Itaewon, South Korea during Halloween festivities. It was the deadliest crowd crush event in South Korean history.
Seoul’s popular Itaewon district was packed with an estimated 100,000 people this past Saturday. President Yoon designated the district a disaster zone following Saturday’s tragedy.
The deadly crush occurred around round 10:20 pm. The district is known to be a network of narrow, inclining, and declining alleys. Crowds were overwhelming the entire night. Just after 10:00 pm, hundreds of people surged into an alley next to the Hamilton hotel.
Witnesses reported seeing crowds of Halloween-goers surging forcefully in different directions. On the sloped surface, people lost their balance, causing a domino effect of falling.
Someone present at the crowd crush in Itaewon described the scene on Twitter: “People kept pushing down into a downhill club alley, resulting in other people screaming and falling down like dominos. I thought I would be crushed to death, too, as people kept pushing without realising there were people falling down at the start of the stampede.”
On Sunday morning, families and friends of loved ones who celebrated the holiday at Itaewon were desperately searching for information regarding the identities of the victims. Over 90% of the victims, most of them teens or in their 20s, have been identified.
“This news came like a bolt from the blue sky,” commented the father of a woman who died on Saturday evening.
On Sunday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a state of national mourning as the country investigated and processed Saturday’s tragedy. He remarked, “As a president, who is responsible for the people’s lives and safety, my heart is heavy and I struggle to cope with my grief.”
President Yoon also promised authorities would launch a full investigation of the “cause of the incident and make fundamental improvements to ensure the same accident does not occur again in the future.”
Dr. Lee Beom-suk and Kim Mi Sung both provided first aid and support for the victims. Lee described the effect of the crowd crush on those hurt: “I could not catch their pulse or breath. There was blood coming from their noses. When I tried CPR, I also pumped blood out of their mouths.”
Kim works at a local nonprofit which promotes tourism in Itaewon. After the event, she performed CPR on 10 unconscious victims. Nine were later declared dead
More than 400 total emergency personnel were present at the scene in order to provide support to the victims. Police support, however, was slow to arrive. Interior minister Lee Sang-min defends the slow reaction time, explaining that “A considerable number had been deployed at Gwanghwamun where a large crowd was expected for a protest.” They “had also not expected” Itaewon to gather such a significant Halloween crowd.
Long celebrated as a hub of nightlife, Itaewon reopened for Halloween festivities for the first time in three years. People flocked to the party district in the thousands to celebrate the reopening of Itaewon after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Interested in reading more about the latest news? Click here to learn about Germany’s latest initiative to legalize cannabis.