South Korea investigates deadly Halloween stampede

SEOUL, North Korea (AP) — South Korean police were investigating Monday what sparked a stampede that left more than 150 dead during Seoul’s Halloween festivities, as President Yoon Suk Yeol and tens of thousands of others honored the memory of the deceased in special mourning sites.

Saturday’s disaster was concentrated in a narrow, steep alley in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, a popular nightlife district. Witnesses and survivors recalled a “hellish” chaos in which people fell on top of each other like dominoes, noting that the entire Itaewon area was saturated with slow-moving vehicles and revelers in Halloween costumes. , making it impossible for rescuers and ambulances to reach the crowded alleys in time.

Police said they have created a 475-member task force to investigate the stampede.

Police officers have obtained video taken by approximately 50 security cameras in the area and are also analyzing videos posted on social media. They have interviewed more than 40 witnesses and survivors so far, police officer Nam Gu-Jun told reporters on Monday.

Other police said they are trying to determine exactly when and where the stampede started and how it developed. They said a team of police officers and government forensic experts searched the Itaewon area on Monday.

“The government will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and do its best to make necessary improvements to the systems to prevent a similar accident from happening again,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said at the start of a meeting. government about the disaster.

The Itaewon area, famous for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, is the hottest spot for Halloween-themed parties and events, which have become more popular among young South Koreans in recent years. Approximately 100,000 people gathered there in the largest Halloween celebration in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Among the deceased were 26 foreigners.

There are no official organizers for Halloween festivities in Itaewon. South Korean police said Monday they have no special procedures to handle incidents such as stampedes during an event that lacks organizers.

Police said they sent 137 officers to keep order during the Halloween festivities on Saturday, far more than the 34 to 90 officers deployed in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic.

Citing those figures, the police refuted allegations that a police station in the area was understaffed because it was providing additional security for Yoon, who previously moved the presidential offices to a site near Itaewon, saying such These statements “do not correspond to the truth.” Police authorities pointed out that security for the presidents provided by the police has long been handled by two special police units that have nothing to do with the Yongsan police headquarters, whose jurisdiction includes Itaewon.

As of Monday morning, the government said it had identified 153 of the 154 bodies and informed relatives. Nearly two-thirds of the dead — 98 — were women. The number of dead could increase, since, according to the authorities, 33 of the dozens of injured are in serious condition.

More than 80% of the dead were between 20 and 30 years old and 11 were teenagers, according to the Interior Ministry.

Among the foreign victims, five were from Iran, four from China, four from Russia, two from the United States, two from Japan, and one from each of the following countries: Australia, Norway, France, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan , Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka, according to the ministry.


Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Bangkok and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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