At least 151 people have been killed and 82 others injured in a deadly stampede in Seoul’s Itaewon district as huge crowds of partygoers, many in their late teens and 20s, converged in the entertainment district for late-night Halloween celebrations.
The deadliest stampede in Korea’s history happened Saturday night in a narrow alley near Hamilton Hotel in the famous nightlife district after tens of thousands of people visited the area for Halloween.
At least 19 foreigners have been confirmed dead in a stampede at Seoul’s Itaewon district during Halloween celebrations, fire authorities said Sunday.
The death toll from Saturday’s accident rose to 151, with 19 of them identified as foreigners, Choi Seong-beom, head of the fire department in Yongsan, said in a briefing.
Their nationalities include those from Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Norway, Choi said.
Of the deceased, 97 are female and 54 are male, Choi said.
It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years after the country lifted many COVID-19 restrictions. Most of the people on the streets were wearing Halloween costumes.
Victims in their late teens and 20s accounted for the age group most affected by the accident, the authorities also said. It is not yet known whether the victims included minors.
As people in the front fell over, those in the back were crushed,” a witness in his 20s told news reporters.
Rumors at the scene were that a crowd of people had flocked to a place to see a celebrity or candies laced with drugs had been distributed at clubs, but the exact cause of the accident is yet to be known.
President Yoon Suk-yeol addressed the nation live from the presidential office, saying Saturday’s “tragedy and disaster should never have happened.”
The president also announced a period of national mourning over the stampede.
Before addressing the nation, Yoon also presided over two successive emergency meetings, ordering officials to swiftly administer first aid and treat the injured, the presidential office said.
Yoon also ordered officials to deploy emergency medical officials to Itaewon and secure emergency beds.
U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his “deepest condolences.”
“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 send our best wishes for a quick recovery to all those who were injured,” Biden said in a statement, referring to first lady Jill Biden.
“The Alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or more vital ― and the ties between our people are stronger than ever. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time,” he said.