At least 151 dead after Halloween crowd surge in Seoul

South Korea is mourning the deaths of at least 151 people, mostly in their teens and 20s, who got trapped and crushed after a huge Halloween party crowd surged into a narrow alley in a nightlife district in Seoul.

Rescuers move a victim after the stampede in Seoul's Itaewon district
Rescuers move a victim after the stampede in Seoul's Itaewon district

Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department, said the death toll could rise as emergency workers were continuing to transport the injured to hospitals across Seoul following the stampede in the leisure district of Itaewon on Saturday night.

Officials say it was believed that people were crushed to death after a large crowd began pushing forward in a narrow alley near Hamilton Hotel, a major party spot in Seoul.

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More than 400 emergency workers and 140 vehicles from around the nation, including all available personnel in Seoul, were deployed to the streets to treat the injured.

The National Fire Agency separately said in a statement that officials were still trying to determine the exact number of emergency patients.

TV footage and photos from the scene showed ambulance vehicles lined up in streets amid a heavy police presence and emergency workers moving the injured in stretchers.

Emergency workers and pedestrians were also seen performing CPR on people lying in the streets.

Police, which were restricting traffic in nearby areas to speed up the transportation of the injured to hospitals across the city, also confirmed that dozens of people were being given CPR on Itaewon streets.

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

A local police officer said he was also informed that a stampede occurred on Itaewon’s streets where a crowd of people gathered for Halloween festivities. The officer requested anonymity, saying the details of the incident was still under investigation.

Some local media reports earlier said the crush happened after a large number of people rushed to an Itaewon bar after hearing an unidentified celebrity visited there.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement calling for officials to ensure swift treatment for those injured and review the safety of the festivity sites.

He also instructed the Health Ministry to swiftly deploy disaster medical assistance teams and secure beds in nearby hospital to treat the injured.

Local media said around 100,000 people flocked to Itaewon streets for the Halloween festivities, which were the biggest since the start of the pandemic following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in recent months.

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