The death toll from a chaotic crowd surge in South Korea stood at 153 people by Sunday night and could grow significantly larger, authorities warned, as questions about what caused the tragedy remain.
Thousands of concerned people asked city officials whether their loved ones were among those killed in the surge, which happened Saturday night during a massive Halloween party in Seoul’s popular Itaewon area.
Another 133 people were also wounded, including 37 whom officials say suffered serious injuries. The mayhem occurred in a downhill alley, with victims going down “like dominoes,” witnesses claimed.
“I still can’t believe what has happened. It was like a hell,” said Kim Mi Sung, who works for a tourism organization in Itaewon and performed CPR on multiple victims.
The victims who died mostly included people in their 20s and 30s, with 97 women among those killed. At least one American died, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
“When we just started to move forward, there was no way to go back,” said Ken Fallas, who was visiting from Costa Rica. “We didn’t hear anything because the music was really loud. Now, I think that was one of the main things that made this so complicated.”
A crowd of about 100,000 people congregated for the festivities — the biggest outdoor party in South Korea since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Emergency responders struggled to reach ailing attendees because the streets were so crowded, witnesses said.
A national mourning period went into effect Sunday and will last for a week, according to an announcement by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
“This is really devastating. The tragedy and disaster that need not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul amid Halloween (celebrations),” Yoon said Sunday.
“I feel heavy-hearted and cannot contain my sadness as a president responsible for the people’s lives and safety.”
The surge occurred near the neighborhood’s Hamilton Hotel. Dozens of nearby businesses will stay closed through Halloween in an effort to keep people out of the area.
Among the victims who died were visitors from China, Vietnam, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Austria, Norway and Uzbekistan, according to the Interior Ministry.
With News Wire Services