South Korea wants answers to one of South Korea’s worst dilemmas: Seoul’s nightmare Halloween party.
The authorities have declared a period of national mourning. Additionally, they are currently investigating how the devastating stampede left 151 people dead.
Tens of thousands of costumed Halloween party-goers flocked to Itaewon’s famous nightlife to celebrate the spooky season. These include teenagers and young adults.
It is the first time in nearly three years that South Korea has held a celebration and since it eased COVID protocols, including crowd restrictions and wearing face masks.
However, the Halloween event turned out to be messy. Photos and videos on social media showed huge crowds collapsing in a small alley. Witnesses said the revelers were so tightly packed that it was difficult to move or breathe.
A 23-year-old eyewitness named Suah Cho said she was moving past the alley when “suddenly, some people started pushing each other. And people were screaming.”
She said the screaming lasted for about 15 minutes. Then, she added: “It was just panic.”
“Some people were going forward. And some people were going backward. And then just they were pushing each other,” she continued.
As per Cho, she escaped from the crowd through a building in an alley, where she discovered the incident. In addition, she said a few people had said, “people were climbing the building to survive.”
An investigation by the authorities is underway. However, Yongsan-gu Fire Department’s chief, Choi Seong-bum, stated that it was a “presumed stampede.” He added that several individuals fell and injured the other 82.
Meanwhile, those deaths included about 19 foreign nationals – people from Norway, Iran, Uzbekistan, and China, he said. According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, one Thai national is counted among the dead.
Saturday’s incident fell into shock and mourning all over the country on Sunday. Victims’ families gathered at a nearby place in Itaewon. Officials were compiling the name of the dead and missing, with families racing to identify bodies.
Over 90% of those killed have been identified, according to the Minister of Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min on Sunday.
Moreover, he said they couldn’t identify around ten individuals because some were under 17 and others were foreigners. 17-year-olds are too young to have a national ID card.
However, several are still missing. Families race to call hospitals and visit morgues. Seoul authorities accumulated over 2,580 missing person reports on Sunday, per the city government.
While the government started a probe and vowed to implement new actions to avoid the same incident, many still raised questions about the nature of the incident.
Cho stated that she didn’t see any police or officials attempting to control the situation ahead of the devastating crush. And following their arrival, confusion and panic are still evident.
“The police officer was screaming. But we couldn’t really tell that was a real police officer because so many people were wearing costumes,” she stated. “People were literally saying, ‘Are you a real police officer?’”
Read also: Lula Bests Bolsonaro in Presidential Runoff