© Reuters. Folks have a look at decorations close to the scene of the stampede throughout Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, October 30, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji
By Soo-hyang Choi, Daewoung Kim and Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) – Younger folks flocking to Seoul’s fashionable Itaewon district on Saturday for the primary just about unrestricted Halloween festivities in three years as a substitute discovered themselves caught up in a lethal crush that killed a minimum of 151 folks.
The gang of partiers, some nonetheless of their teenagers and lots of clad in Halloween costumes, was able to benefit from the bars, nightclubs and eating places the place the revelry routinely spills over into slender and sometimes steep aspect streets.
However the intimacy of Itaewon’s backstreets turned sinister this Halloween weekend.
Twenty-four hours earlier than, there have been already warning indicators that the festivities had been attracting harmful numbers of individuals. On Friday night time, a Reuters witness noticed crowds within the space packed toe-to-toe at a Halloween road honest with cubicles for face-painting and promoting sweet and costumes.
A day later these crowds returned.
Officers say there was nobody organised occasion that drew hundreds of revelers to the cramped alleyways the place so many younger folks, together with a minimum of 22 foreigners, would die.
However social media posts confirmed nightclubs and bars promoting Halloween occasions and promotions, together with collaborations at a few of the hottest golf equipment for particular performances.
Officers are nonetheless investigating what prompted the group to surge, however witnesses and social media footage confirmed folks squeezing into the streets for a number of blocks surrounding the alley the place most of the deaths would happen.
Simply earlier than 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT), chaos erupted, with police at occasions struggling to regulate the crowds, witnesses mentioned.
Folks poured into one notably slender and sloping alley, even after it was already packed wall-to-wall. Social media footage confirmed some folks attempting to scale the edges of the buildings to flee the growing strain, as others shouted, cried, or cursed.
When these on the high of the slope fell, it despatched folks under them toppling over others, witnesses mentioned.
“We arrived at round 10 p.m. to go to a membership however then noticed folks falling on the road,” mentioned Moon Ju-young, 21. “Some had been bleeding, others had been crying out in ache.”
One pupil from France, who requested to not be recognized due to the trauma of the occasion, mentioned he turned lodged in a crush of individuals for about an hour and a half.
“I wished to go to a protected place nevertheless it wasn’t attainable,” he informed Reuters. “I used to be simply pushed by everybody and I simply could not do something.”
He mentioned he got here out with chest ache and a damage ankle, however felt sorry for many who had been killed or extra severely injured, in addition to the emergency staff who desperately tried to free folks.
He felt much less sympathetic in the direction of those that continued attempting to push their means by the group, usually complicating the duty of rescue staff who informed the throng to stay calm and in place.
“I am upset towards them as a result of they pushed everybody and so they did not realise,” he mentioned.
Movies shared on social media confirmed a pile of our bodies wedged between buildings, some on the backside showing unconscious, whereas others reached out to emergency staff who struggled to free them from the crush.
“An individual proper subsequent to me fell, however then folks behind me continued to push me, then extra folks fell down and kinda piled up on each other,” mentioned a 30-year previous graduate college pupil from Seoul. “I screamed at individuals who had been pushing me: ‘Don’t push! Folks fell!'”
One girl mentioned her daughter, pulled from the crush of individuals, survived after being trapped for greater than an hour.
Moon, the younger man who witnessed victims on the road, mentioned onlookers appeared so as to add to the confusion as they sought to assist pals.
“There have been some individuals who tried to forcibly cross the police line saying they’ve pals over there, and so they had been dragged out by police,” Moon mentioned.
Authorities had predicted as much as 100,000 folks would be part of the festivities, the primary with out main COVID 19-related restrictions because the pandemic started in 2020, however witnesses mentioned it was laborious to detect a significant police presence amid the throngs of individuals.
“Many individuals collect for Halloween yearly however there have been simply so many final night time, incomparably greater than earlier than COVID, so I couldn’t establish who’re police and who are usually not among the many crowd,” mentioned a lady in her 20s who mentioned she lived within the neighbourhood however declined to present her identify.
Private belongings and different particles had been scattered throughout the world, with firefighters administering CPR to folks mendacity on the street and police preventing to maintain crowds again, social media footage confirmed.
“I managed to flee the scene,” the graduate pupil mentioned. “But when I would stayed there only a few extra minutes, then I might not have made it out, however would have died there.”