149 dead, 76 injured in stampede in Seoul

Seoul: At least 149 people were killed and 76 others injured in a deadly stampede in Seoul’s Itaewon district as huge crowds of revelers jostled through a late-night Halloween celebration, fire officials said Sunday.

The incident happened on Saturday night in a narrow alley near the Hamilton Hotel in the famous nightlife district after a crowd of revelers poured into it, according to witnesses.

Tens of thousands of people visited the area for Halloween parties, Yonhap news agency reported.

A total of 149 people, including two foreigners, were confirmed dead early Sunday morning and another 76 were injured, 19 of them seriously, fire officials said, adding that the death toll could rise.

Choi Seong-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Department, which includes Itaewon, told reporters that “many casualties were caused as a crowd of people overturned during Halloween parties.”

Victims over the age of 20 were the most affected age group in the incident, authorities said.

Initially, fire authorities received dozens of reports from people in the Itaewon area about patients having difficulty breathing. The first report was made at around 22:15

Rescuers dispatched to the scene performed resuscitation on dozens of victims on the nearby road.

“When the people in front fell, those behind were crushed,” a witness in his 20s told Yonhap news agency.

Rumors at the scene are that a crowd of people flocked to the spot to catch a glimpse of a celebrity or that drug-laced candies were handed out in clubs, but the exact cause of the incident is still unknown.

Shortly after the stampede, President Yoon Suk-yeol presided over two consecutive emergency meetings, ordering officials to quickly administer first aid and treat the injured, the presidential office said.

Yoon also ordered officials to deploy emergency medical personnel to Itaewon and provide emergency beds.

After leading an emergency meeting about the stampede, Yoon instructed officials to thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident.

Separately, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo instructed officials to make maximum efforts to minimize damage.

Meanwhile, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who is visiting Europe, decided to return home after the incident, city officials said.

A total of 848 people, including 346 firefighters, were mobilized for the area.

As of early Sunday, about 270 missing persons reports had been filed in connection with the incident, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said.

Police said they are making every effort to confirm the identities of the victims and then establish contact with their family members.

Police plan to soon launch an investigation into whether bars and clubs in the area are complying with safety rules.

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