At least 150 people were killed and 82 others injured in South Korea's Seoul on Saturday night in stampede during Halloween celebrations in the town of Itaewon. While the cause of the accident is yet to be ascertained, reports said the stampede took place when a huge crowd had gathered in the narrow streets of the town.
South Korea's President, Yoon Suk Yeol, announced a period of national mourning till November 5. "This is truly tragic. A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul last night," Reuters quoted Yeol as saying.
The report quoted Choi head of the Yongsan Fire Station, Sung-beom, saying the deceased included 19 foreign nationals.
Here are the updates on the tragic accident in Seoul:
The crowd had gathered in Itaewon, a place known for its nightlife, on Saturday night for Halloween celebrations. This was the first time since 2019 that people had gathered in Seoul town for a Halloween event. Reuters quoted the fire department saying that majority of the casualties had taken place near a nightclub, with most victims being teenagers and young adults in their early 20s. The foreign nationals killed in the deadly crush included those from China, Iran, Uzbekistan and Norway. South Korean daily The Korea Herald reported that 97 of those killed in the accident were women.
Reports said the crowd surged on an uphill alley and left people stuck for over an hour. Some people suffocated to death as they couldn't get out of the packed street.
AP quoted an eyewitness saying that people fell on each other "like dominos" as the chaos began to unfold.
The exact cause of the accident is yet not clear. However, CNN quoted disaster management experts saying that the density of the city could have played a catalyst in the mishap. "In a panic situation the combination of narrow streets and dead-end alleyways certainly would have been deadly," the report said. Eyewitnesses were quoted by Reuters and CNN saying that the streets were packed with crowds of tens of thousands and several people had gathered outside the pubs and clubs.
The officials said the first emergency calls were received at 10:24 pm.
The injured were rushed to Seoul National University Hospital, Gangdong Kyunghee University Hospital, Hanyang University Hospital and Korea University Hospital, New York Times reported.
South Korea declares national mourning
President Yeol announced a period of national mourning till November 5 for the victims of the deadly stampede in Seoul. National flags at all public institutions and diplomatic offices will fly half-staff and all non-urgent events will be postponed, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said, adding that civil servants and employees of public institutions will wear ribbons as a mark of condolence.
The government has said it will provide assistance to the kin of the deceased and injured. Duck-soo said the government will "operate a funeral support team and respond fully to the treatment of the injured". The families and the injured will also be given psychological assistance.
"Our country has a history of overcoming disasters with all citizens united in one mind. I earnestly ask all the people to join so that we can overcome sorrow and rise again," Duck-soo said.
Around 100 businesses in the Hamilton Hotel area have agreed to keep their shops closed till Monday to "reduce the number of partygoers", the AP reported.
Meanwhile, K-pop concert scheduled to be held in Busan City on Sunday evening has been canceled, The Korea Herald reported, adding that over 40,000 were expected to attend the event.
World leaders condole deaths
Leaders from across the world expressed condolence with South Korea after the horrific accident. US President Joe Biden expressed his condolence and said, " We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish for a quick recovery to all those who were injured. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time."
UK Prime minister Rishi Sunak termed the accident horrific. "Horrific news from Seoul tonight. All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very distressing time," he wrote on Twitter.
India's external affairs minister S Jaishankar expressed "shock" over the accident. "Deeply shocked at the loss of so many young lives due to the stampede in Seoul. Our condolences to the families of those who lost their dear ones. We stand in solidarity with the Republic of Korea during this difficult time," he tweeted.
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