South Korea declares national mourning after crash kills 151 on Halloween
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has declared national mourning after 151 people were killed in an accident on Halloween in a busy nightlife district in Seoul on Sunday.
Yoon offered condolences to the victims, most of whom were in their teens and 20s, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
"This is a truly tragic incident," Yoon said in a statement. "A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened in the heart of Seoul last night."
Emergency officials said a large crowd celebrating in the popular Itaewon district spilled into an alleyway Saturday night and the death toll could rise.
Choi Sung-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Station, said 151 people were confirmed dead, including 19 foreigners. At a briefing held at the scene, he said 82 people were injured, 19 of them seriously.
This was the first Halloween event held in Seoul in three years after the country lifted Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing. Many of the partygoers were wearing masks and Halloween costumes.
Some eyewitnesses said the crowd became increasingly unruly and agitated as the evening progressed. The incident occurred at around 22:20 pm (1320 GMT).
"A large number of people lost their lives during the Halloween festival and we have many injured," Choi said. Most of the dead were near a nightclub.
Choi said most of the victims were women in their 20s, while foreigners who died included people from China, Iran, Uzbekistan and Norway.
Witnesses described chaos in the moments before the stampede, with police on hand for the Halloween event at times struggling to control the crowd.
Moon Ju-young, 21, said there were clear signs of trouble in side streets before the incident. "It was at least 10 times more crowded than normal," he told Reuters.
Footage on social media showed hundreds of people trapped in a narrow, sloping alleyway, crushed and immobilized as emergency workers and police tried to rescue them.
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