Itaewon Crowd Crush 'An Accident Was Inevitable'

Itaewon Crowd Crush: ‘An Accident Was Inevitable’

Halloween revellers in costume running away in terror, frantic attempts at first aid on the sidewalks, and dozens of dead lined up under handmade shrouds. On Saturday, a Halloween event in Seoul’s bustling Itaewon area descended into tragedy.

The cause of a stampede and crowd surge that claimed at least 150 lives was still unknown on Sunday. The South Korean capital’s fashionable, international neighbourhood, next to a former US military installation, is well known for its nightlife.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of people—primarily young people and many of them dressed in ornate Halloween costumes—flocked to the neighbourhood for the first significant Halloween celebration since the majority of Covid-19 restrictions were abolished.

When the rush started, 30-year-old Jeon Ga-Eul enjoyed a drink at a pub. “My friend said: something awful is happening outside,” he recalled. “I questioned: What are you discussing? When I stepped outside to check, I saw that CPR was being performed in the street.

The neighbourhood inspired the wildly successful 2020 Korean drama Itaewon Class is a maze of steeply sloped, winding alleyways on both sides of the main road. According to witnesses who spoke to Agence France-Presse, the gathering was unusually dense on Saturday night. Jeon claimed that he had felt uneasy even before the tragedy.

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He claimed that “so many people were just being shoved around” and that “I was stuck in the crush, and I at first couldn’t get out too.” “I had the impression that something would go wrong.” The stampede happened in a small Itaewon alleyway close to the Hamilton Hotel.

The first emergency personnel requested onlookers to provide first aid and CPR on casualties in the streets, right next to the turmoil, due to many victims. Rows of victims crushed or trampled to death were arranged and shrouded in blankets or other temporary coverings.

Many of the injured were brought to the nearby Soon Chun Hyang university hospital, with hundreds of ambulances in front of it. Music was still playing from certain bars in the area, which the police had roped off and illuminated by hundreds of flashing red lights.

Unconvinced onlookers sat on the sidewalk and fiddled with their phones. While some people continued to celebrate, others consoled themselves by hugging one another, seemingly ignorant of the severity of the tragedy next to them. Police investigators searched the alleyways littered with debris.

Ju Young Possamai, a 24-year-old bartender in the Itaewon neighbourhood, said, “It’s typically busy, but nothing like this has ever happened before.” I’ve attended many Halloween parties in Korea, but I never imagined that something like this could occur there, particularly in Itaewon, he continued.