A scene of revelry and celebration quickly transformed into one of horror as a stampede in South Korea killed at least 146 people and injured another 150.
Authorities say that as many as 100,000 flocked to Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district in the country’s largest celebration since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. But the Halloween festivities soon turned tragic as a throng rushed to a bar to see an unidentified celebrity.
Vivid photographic and video footage from the scene showed a long and narrow alley where a huge influx of people rushed to get to the bar. Witnesses report that many fell to the ground in the roughly 11-foot-wide space and were crushed.
A worker in the bar that the crowd pushed toward said that employees were powerless to help the masses.
The establishment was at the end of the surge of partygoers and there were layers upon layers of people trying to get in the doors. Many were clad in Halloween costumes.
As authorities counted and covered the dead, many others frantically received CPR on the scene in a desperate effort to save their lives. Officials report that roughly 50 victims suffered cardiac arrest.
A nearby gymnasium was set up as a temporary morgue where the bodies could be transported to and identified.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT – A stampede in South Korea killed at least 149 people and injured another 150 when a crowd celebrating Halloween crammed into an alley in the Itaewon area of Seoul https://t.co/ZBB3cKgZYx pic.twitter.com/bSA9SJBmck
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 30, 2022
One official, Choi Seong-beom of the Seoul Yongsan Fire Department, said it is believed the death toll may rise due to the number of victims still in critical condition.
South Korea’s foreign ministry reported that the fatalities include 26 foreign nationals from at least 15 different countries, and the count is likely to rise as more victims are identified.
The U.S. embassy in Seoul confirmed that two Americans are among the dead. One was a junior nursing student from the University of Kentucky.
Journalists on the scene describe the confusion of having so many unidentified bodies to account for. Frantic relatives and loved ones contacted authorities through the night attempting to get any information on people who could not be reached after the tragedy.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol immediately demanded a safety review of the city’s Halloween festivities. He also called on the national health ministry to secure beds at nearby medical facilities to treat the wounded.
A national day of mourning has been declared.