In Seoul, 151 people were killed in a stampede during the celebration of Halloween, more than 100 were injured, according to AP. Most of the dead were teenagers and 20-year-olds. There are fears that the death toll could rise as 24 of the injured are in critical condition.
Among the victims are two Russian women, another was injured, Interfax reports with reference to the Russian embassy. In total, more than 20 foreigners were among the dead. According to the city authorities, the victims were citizens of Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Norway.
Local authorities have already received more than 3,000 missing persons reports in the stampede area. Applications began to be accepted only at 5 am.
The exact cause of the stampede is still unknown. It began on Saturday evening, after 10 pm, in the popular Itaewon district, where tens of thousands of people gathered for the Halloween celebration. Walkers were trapped in a narrow lane near the Hamilton Hotel, about 4 meters wide, with a slope and bumps. According to eyewitnesses, there was a lot of garbage in the alley and “something slippery” was spilled. The start of the crush was caught on video.
Witnesses say the streets were so packed with people and slow-moving cars that it was almost impossible for rescuers and ambulance drivers to reach the alley.
One eyewitness said that people fell and dropped each other "like dominoes" after being pushed by others. According to him, the stampede lasted about an hour and a half. Another survivor, Lee Chang Kyu, said he saw five or six men pushing others. Yonhap News Agency reported that many victims in the crowd suffered cardiac arrest.
One of the participants in the events said that he survived because he managed to run into a bar whose door was open in an alley, according to Yonhap agency. A 20-year-old woman named Pak told the agency that she and her friends were standing on the side of the alley while others caught in the middle of the alley had nowhere to run.
During the night, the Seoul authorities sent out an emergency message asking everyone still in the area of the incident to go home. Local television, citing a source, reported that despite the already existing crush, people continued to go into this narrow alley.
In an interview with YTN news channel, Hwang Min Hyuk, a visitor to Itaewon, said he was shocked to see the rows of bodies outside the hotel. He said the ambulance workers were overwhelmed and the people themselves were trying to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the wounded lying on the streets. According to him, many were crying near the bodies of their friends.
In recent months, the South Korean government has eased COVID-19 restrictions, and for many young people, this was the first big chance to get out and have fun, AP notes.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared national mourning on Sunday and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on government buildings and government offices. During a televised speech, Yoon said supporting the families of the victims, including preparing for their funerals, and treating the injured would be a top priority for the government.
He also urged officials to thoroughly investigate the causes of the accident and check the safety of other major cultural and entertainment events, including regional festivals, to ensure they are held safely.
“It's really devastating. A tragedy and disaster that shouldn't have happened happened in the heart of Seoul during Halloween," Yoon said. "I have a heavy heart, and I cannot contain my sadness as a president responsible for the life and safety of the people."
Representatives of other countries have already expressed condolences in connection with the incident, in particular, the head of EU diplomacy Borrell, US President Biden, and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau spoke.
This tragedy is the worst in the country since 2014, when the Sewol ferry sank. Then 304 people died, mostly schoolchildren.