South Korea mourns and investigates deadly Halloween crowd crush

Seoul, South Korea – Police admitted mistakes on Monday in the name of South Korea I searched for answers on how Halloween celebrations in the nation’s capital turned out fatal crush.

President Yoon Seok Yeol led the mourners Paying respect at sites in Seoul dedicated to More than 150 people who were killed. His government has pledged a thorough investigation into the disaster, the country’s deadliest in years.

Tens of thousands of people They gathered on Saturday in Itaewon – the capital’s nightlife district popular with foreigners – when a large crowd rolled into a narrow, steep alleyway, causing a deadly panic.

Many revelers were in their teens and twenties and dressed for the first time in the country Halloween Celebrating without covid restrictions in three years.

The death toll from the disaster rose by one to 154 as of Monday morning, Including two Americans and 24 other foreign nationals. Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said all but one of the victims had been identified. The number of wounded also rose to 149, including 33 in serious condition.

At the city’s memorials, mourners left traditional white chrysanthemums as well as snack foods, soft drinks, beer bottles, and Korean soju liquor. In Itaewon, two Buddhist monks chanted and performed rituals throughout the afternoon.

The country’s president, who has ordered a week of national mourning, paid his respects to the victims at a memorial near City Hall. A second monument has been erected at a site in Itaewon.

“I am overwhelmed with sadness and responsibility as a president responsible for the life and safety of our people as I think about the families who lost loved ones,” Yoon said at a meeting before visiting the memorial on Monday. “My heart breaks so much for the tragic loss especially for the young people, whose dreams can no longer see the light of day.”

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At the meeting, Yoon ordered the government to cover the victims’ funeral and treatment costs. Officials urged the public not to spread false information, hate speech or video footage from the scene while they investigate exactly what happened.

Police said they have set up a 475-member task force to investigate the stampede. Senior police officer Nam Goo-joon told reporters that the force had obtained videos taken by about 50 security cameras in the area and was analyzing videos posted on social media. Nam said Monday they have interviewed more than 40 witnesses and survivors so far.

Witnesses pointed out that there was not enough police presence to control the crowds, which may have been larger than expected.

A senior police official responded to the suggestion, but said the authorities did not anticipate the possibility of a fatal accident.

It was expected that a large number of people would gather there. “But we did not expect large-scale losses due to the gathering of so many people,” Hong Ki-hyun, head of the Public Order Management Office of the National Police Agency, told reporters on Monday.

“I was told that police officers on the scene did not detect a sudden increase in the crowd,” he said, adding, “I regret the mistake that these officers were called.”

According to Hong, 137 police officers were deployed to Itaewon on Saturday, compared to 37 to 90 officers in the three years before the start of the epidemic.

“The focus was on traffic control and crime prevention and illegal activities and not on the safety of crowds flowing through the narrow streets and alleys,” he said. Hong added that the police had no evidence for situations such as Halloween celebrations, which had no central organizer, and that they would learn from the disaster.

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While a team of police officers and government forensic experts searched the area for answers about where the crowd rush began and how it developed, the experts said failure to control the number of people allowed in the area was the ultimate issue.

“There are a limited number of people that can fit anywhere,” Keith Steele, professor of crowd science at the University of Suffolk, told NBC News.

“Anyone who is moving or trying to get out, once that safety threshold is crossed, can do very little. It is up to the people who manage and plan the spaces,” he said.

While Halloween is not a traditional holiday in South Korea, Itaewon is known for its costume parties in bars and clubs, which have increased in popularity in recent years.

Football coach Karim Kerimoglu was among the thousands who gathered there on Saturday.

With each passing hour, he said that he was getting more and more anxious as he had received no response from the two friends he had separated during the surge. I worry if they die. The government has not shown people the ID card yet.”

Kerimoglu, 27, lives about a mile from Main Street in Itaewon. He said he returned to the scene on Sunday evening and saw dozens of mourners, dressed in black, gathering around a makeshift memorial site and presenting white flowers.

“They were giving free flowers to everyone. I also took one and put the flowers and remembered that day,” Kerimoglu said via Instagram, adding that the air smelled of “death.”

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“I get goosebumps when I put flowers on the floor,” he said.

This mass congestion is the deadliest incident in the country since peacetime 2014 seoul ferry sinking. And this accident, which killed 304 people, mainly affected young people.

Stella Kim and Thomas Mariska reported from Seoul. Jennifer Jett and Methyl Agrawal reported from Hong Kong.

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