At least 154 people died and dozens were injured in a crowd crush during Halloween festivities in Seoul’s nightlife district. What caused Saturday’s crowd surge remains unclear, but witnesses say party-goers fell over in a domino effect as people clogged the narrow streets of Itaewon.
An estimated 100,000 people gathered in the nightlife district on Saturday evening to celebrate the first COVID-19-free Halloween.
But what seemed like an enjoyable night quickly turned into sheer chaos when crowds of people crammed into a narrow, steep alley next to the Hamilton Hotel, right outside Itaewon station’s exit.
Social media footage shows citizens, police officers, and emergency medical staff performing CPR on motionless bodies lying on the pavement – many of them in cardiac arrest.
Most of the dead were teenagers or young adults in their 20s. South Korea’s Interior and Safety Ministry reported that 20 were foreigners.
Questions about crowd management and event planning quickly surfaced as traffic jams and clusters of party-goers clad in Halloween costumes barred ambulances and rescuers from making way and departing from Itaewon.
Local media outlets also put a question mark on the apparent lack of safety preparations for the large mobs that were expected to gather in the nightlife district.
A crowd surge happens when a large group of people darts in a confined space, restricting movement. Although during crowd crushes people get injured from getting pushed and trampled, the most common death cause is the restriction of oxygen.
The pressure from above and below during those deadly mobs makes breathing difficult for individuals.
Crowds are not an uncommon occurrence in South Korea’s capital, as Seoul is home to almost ten million residents. Itaewon, a popular area known for its speakeasy bars, glitzy restaurants, and vibrant nightclubs, became the epicenter of tragedy after social media footage showed the district was so packed that it felt unsafe.
As authorities investigate the cause of Seoul’s deadly crowd crush, South Korea’s president Yoon Suk-yeol ordered an emergency response and declared a period of national mourning.