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On Saturday night, at least 153 people were killed while celebrating Halloween in the Itaewon neighborhood of Seoul in South Korea. This year, Itaewon attracted thousands of partygoers to celebrate the first mask-free outdoor Halloween since the pandemic started. The incident took place in a crowded party area; thousands of people surged into a narrow alleyway, crushing each other in one of the worst tragedies in South Korea in years.
Seoul officials received more than 3,500 missing person reports on Sunday afternoon. The first emergency call received was at 10:24 p.m. As the tragic event unfolded, it received massive attention from thousands of emergency responders. Footage on social media revealed the horror of the accident, showing emergency workers doing CPR on multiple people, with dozens of bodies lying on the street and firefighters trying to pull people trapped at the bottom of the crowds. Eyewitnesses described the scene as “panic,” with people climbing on each other and trying to survive. So far, officials have identified 150 of the 153 victims.
The government announced a national mourning period until midnight on November 5, and there’ll be further investigation into the cause of the crush. The government also ensured that measures would be put into place to prevent similar disasters from occurring in the future.
“We had a tragedy last night at the center of Seoul during Halloween that should have not occurred,” said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in a televised speech on Sunday. He added that “the government will give its “highest priority to the accident responses and follow-up measures.”
“Suddenly, some people started pushing each other, and people were screaming. The screaming went on for 15 minutes,” said Suah Cho, one of the witnesses. “Some people were going forward and some people were going backward, and then just they were pushing each other.” She added that some other witnesses told her “people were climbing the building to survive.”
“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul. We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish for a quick recovery to all those who were injured. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time,” said US President Joe Biden on Twitter.
“A lot of young people have gathered here tonight. A lot of people came to the party and club, wearing costumes and a lot of people I’ve seen distraught and sad and there are chaotic scenes,” said Hosu Lee, a BBC journalist who visited the scene.