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At least 151 dead, 82 injured in Seoul Halloween stampede

A crowd of mostly young people celebrating Halloween in Seoul were trapped and crushed when the crowd poured into a narrow alley, killing at least 151 people and injuring 82 in South Korea’s worst disaster in years.

Emergency workers and pedestrians desperately gave CPR to people lying in the streets after the crash in the capital’s Itaewon holiday area on Saturday night.

The dead or injured were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, according to Choi Sung-bom, chief of the Seoul Yongsan Fire Department. According to him, among the dead were 19 foreigners whose nationality was not published. The death toll may rise, as 19 injured are in critical condition.

At least 149 killed, 150 injured in Seoul Halloween stampede
Police stand guard on Oct. 30, 2022, near an alley where a stampede took place the night before during Halloween celebrations in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea. At least 149 people died.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images


At least one US citizen was injured in the stampede, the State Department told CBS News late Saturday.

“We are working with local authorities to determine if any other US citizens have been affected and are prepared to provide consular assistance,” the statement said.

Officials initially said 150 people had been injured as of Sunday morning, but later lowered the number.

National Fire Agency officials did not immediately explain why the number was reduced, but said emergency officials would have had a better idea of ​​casualties during rescue operations and that some of the casualties had been converted to death. It is also possible that some of the lightly wounded returned home at night and are no longer counted.

An estimated 100,000 people gathered in Itaewon for the country’s largest outdoor Halloween celebration since the start of the pandemic. The South Korean government has eased its COVID-19 restrictions in recent months. Ithaewon, which housed the former headquarters of the US military in South Korea before moving from the capital in 2018, is an expat-friendly area known for its trendy bars, clubs and restaurants.

More than 1,700 first responders from across the country were deployed to the streets to help the injured, including about 520 firefighters, 1,100 police officers and 70 civil servants. A separate statement from the National Fire Agency said officials were still trying to determine the exact number of patients who received emergency treatment.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crowd to pour into the narrow slipway outside the Hamilton Hotel, Seoul’s main party spot. One survivor said many people fell and knocked over each other “like dominoes” as they were pushed by others. The survivor, surnamed Kim, said they were trapped for about an hour and a half before being rescued when some people shouted “Help me!” while others were suffocated, Seoul newspaper Hankyoreh reported.

Another survivor, identified as Lee Chang-kyu, said he saw about five or six men start pushing others before one or two began to fall one after the other at the start of the stampede, the newspaper reported.

The stampede was the worst disaster since 304 people, mostly high school students, died when a ferry sank in April 2014. The sinking revealed lax safety regulations and regulatory failures, as the culprit was excessive and poorly secured cargo and a poorly prepared emergency crew. Friday’s stampede is likely to draw public criticism of government officials for what they have done to improve public safety standards since the ferry disaster.

Crowds during the Halloween festival in Seoul
Partygoers walk past ambulances at the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during a Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, on October 29, 2022.

KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS


Television footage and photos showed ambulances lined up in the streets amid a heavy police presence and paramedics carrying victims on stretchers. Emergency personnel and pedestrians were also seen performing CPR on people lying on the streets. In one section, paramedics were seen checking on a dozen or more people who lay motionless under blue blankets.

In an interview with YTN news channel, Hwang Min-hyuk, one of the visitors to Ithaewon, said it was shocking to see the rows of bodies lying on the alley outside the Hamilton Hotel. He said emergency responders were initially overwhelmed, leaving pedestrians struggling to administer CPR to victims lying in the streets. People were crying next to the bodies, he said.

Another man in his 20s said he escaped being trampled because he luckily ran into a bar whose door was open in an alley, Yonhap news agency reported. A woman in her 20s, surnamed Park, told Yonhap that she and others were standing along the alley, while the others ended up in the middle.

Rescue teams and firefighters work at the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during Halloween in Seoul
A rescue team and firefighters work at the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during the Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022.

YONHAP NEWS AGENCY / REUTERS


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol issued a statement calling on officials to provide prompt aid to victims and check the safety of the celebrations. He also instructed the Ministry of Health to quickly deploy medical teams and provide beds in a nearby hospital to treat the injured.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government issued emergency text messages urging people in the area to return home as soon as possible.

“Jill and I extend our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul,” President Biden said in a statement Saturday night. “We mourn together with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish a speedy recovery to all the victims. The alliance between our two countries has never been stronger and more vital, and the bonds between our peoples are stronger than ever. The United States stands by the Republic of Korea at this tragic time.”

South Korea has had deadly stampedes in the past. In 2005, 11 people were killed and about 60 injured in a stampede at a pop concert in the southern city of Sanju. In 1992, a teenage girl died and dozens of others were injured during a stampede at a concert by American pop group New Kids on the Block in Seoul.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/halloween-crowd-surge-seoul-south-korea-dozens-killed-dozens-injured/

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