Crowded South Korean Halloween party leads to 150 deaths in a stampede

by mcardinal

Lauren C. Moye, FISM News


A Saturday night celebration in a nightlife area of Seoul, South Korea ended in a tragic stampede that killed over 150 people and injured others.

The crush happened in Seoul’s Itaewon district, where it’s common for nightlife revelry to spill into the narrow and steep side streets. 

Emergency officials said that at least 153 were killed in the resulting crush with an additional 19 seriously injured. Most of the victims have been identified.

“This news came like a bolt from the blue sky,” said one tearful father to Reuters as he collected his daughter’s body from the morgue.

“A number of people fell during a Halloween festival, and we have a large number of casualties,” said Yongsan Fire Station Chief Choi Sung-beom during a briefing about the event.

At the time, Choi said that the deaths included 22 foreigners. Russia and China embassies both reported some deaths from the event.

82 people were also injured.

The Halloween celebration was the first one held in three years after COVID-19 pandemic measures like social distancing were lifted.  This might have led to the large crowd that was primarily comprised of young adults and teenagers. Many of them wore Halloween costumes.

Moon Ju-young, 21, told Reuters there were clear signs of trouble before the tragedy occurred. He said the district “was at least more than 10 times crowded than usual.”

Other witnesses described the crowd as “agitated” before the crush occurred around 10:20 p.m. local time.

Ultimately, the event happened because people continued to push into an already packed narrow alleyway, causing some to fall at the top of the sloped street.

Some survivors reported being trapped for hours.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a national mourning period on Sunday.

National leaders have offered condolences to the nation.

“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,” said President Joe Biden in a released statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “deeply saddened” and sent his “deepest condolences” to the Republic of Korea.

“Even as Ukraine endures its own suffering, I am deeply saddened by the tragedy in Seoul. My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones, and I wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” said Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

European Union foreign affairs official Joep Fontelles said he was “deeply saddened” by the “celebration turned into a tragedy.”

“On behalf of the Chinese government and people, I would like to express deep condolences to the victims and extend sincere condolences to their families and the injured,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a letter, according to Xinhua. At least four nationals were among those who were killed.

Russian news agency RIA also reported the death of four Russian citizens.

“Please convey words of sincere sympathy and support to the families and friends of the victims, and also wishes for the swift recovery of all the injured,” President Vladimir Putin said in a Telegram to Yoon.

The prime ministers of Britain and Canada also tweeted condolences.

South Korea hasn’t experienced a disaster of this magnitude since the ferry ship Sewol sunk in 2014, killing 304 people.