South Korea Probes Halloween Crowd Surge As Nation Mourns More Than 150 Dead

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean police are investigating what precipitated a crowd surge that killed greater than 150 individuals together with 26 foreigners throughout Halloween festivities in Seoul final weekend within the nation’s worst catastrophe in years, as President Yoon Suk Yeol and tens of hundreds of others paid respects to the useless at particular mourning websites.

Saturday’s catastrophe was concentrated in a sloped, slender alley in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood, a well-liked nightlife district, with witnesses and survivors recalling a “hell-like” chaos with individuals falling on one another like dominoes. They stated the complete Itaewon space was jammed with slow-moving automobiles and partygoers clad in Halloween costumes, making it unattainable for rescuers and ambulances to achieve the crammed alleys in time.

Police stated they’ve launched a 475-member job pressure to research the crush.

Officers have obtained movies taken by about 50 safety cameras within the space and are additionally analyzing video clips posted on social media. They’ve interviewed greater than 40 witnesses and survivors up to now, senior police officer Nam Gu-Jun advised reporters Monday.

Different law enforcement officials stated they’re looking for precisely when and the place the group surge began and the way it developed. They stated a crew of law enforcement officials and authorities forensic consultants searched the Itaewon space on Monday.

“The government will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and do its best to make necessary improvements of systems to prevent a similar accident from recurring,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated at the beginning of a authorities assembly on the catastrophe.

The Itaewon space, well-known for its cosmopolitan environment, is the nation’s hottest spot for Halloween-themed occasions and events, which have grown more and more common amongst younger South Koreans in recent times. An estimated 100,000 individuals have been gathered there within the nation’s largest Halloween celebration because the pandemic started.

The useless included about 26 overseas nationals.

One of many Individuals killed was Anne Gieske, a College of Kentucky nursing pupil from northern Kentucky who was doing a study-abroad program in South Korea, the college stated in an announcement. The opposite was Steven Blesi, 20, his father, Steve Blesi, wrote on Twitter after earlier in search of details about his son.

South Korean investigators examine the scene of a lethal accident following Saturday night time’s Halloween festivities in Seoul, South Korea, on Oct. 31, 2022.

Blesi appealed for info after not listening to from his son, asking, “If anyone has any news please share.” After a flood of responses providing assist and help, he tweeted, “We just got confirmation our son died,” adopted by “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.”

Australian sufferer Grace Rached, a Sydney movie manufacturing assistant, was described by her household as “our life of the party.” Her household stated in an announcement that “We are missing our gorgeous angel Grace, who lit up the room with her infectious smile.”

The Japanese useless included Mei Tomikawa, who was finding out Korean language in Seoul, in response to Japanese media. Her father, Ayumu Tomikawa, advised Japanese public broadcaster NHK that his daughter “really liked South Korea and was enjoying her life there.”

Halloween festivities in Itaewon don’t have any official organizers. South Korean police stated Monday they don’t have any particular procedures for dealing with incidents similar to crowd surges throughout an occasion that has no organizers.

Police stated they dispatched 137 officers to keep up order throughout Halloween festivities on Saturday, way more than the 34-90 officers mobilized in 2017, 2018 and 2019 earlier than the pandemic.

Citing these figures, police dismissed as “different from the truth” hypothesis {that a} police station within the space was understaffed as a result of it was offering additional safety for Yoon, who earlier moved the presidential workplace to a website close to Itaewon. They stated police-provided safety for presidents has lengthy been dealt with by two particular police models which don’t have anything to do with the Yongsan police station, whose jurisdiction consists of Itaewon.

Nam, the police officer, stated, the investigation would look into all doable causes of the crush.

As of Monday morning, the federal government stated it has recognized 153 of the 154 our bodies and knowledgeable family of their identification. Almost two-thirds of the useless — 98 — have been girls. It stated 149 others stay injured. The demise toll might rise additional as a result of officers stated 33 of the injured have been in severe situation.

More than 80% of the useless have been of their 20s or 30s and 11 have been youngsters, the Inside Ministry stated.

Amongst overseas victims, 5 have been from Iran, 4 from China, 4 from Russia, two from the US, two from Japan, and one every from Australia, Norway, France, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka, in response to the ministry.

As the identifications of the useless neared completion, bereaved households have been anticipated to start funerals for his or her family members. Officers stated the federal government will present mandatory help for funeral procedures.

President Yoon on Sunday declared a one-week nationwide mourning interval and ordered flags at authorities buildings and public places of work to fly at half workers.

The federal government opened particular memorial websites on Monday in Seoul and different main cities. Tens of hundreds of individuals together with Yoon and different prime officers visited the websites, positioned white flowers and bowed deeply. Many individuals additionally laid chrysanthemums, bottles of Korean “soju” liquor, candles and snacks close to an Itaewon subway station and posted a bunch of condolence messages.

Following the catastrophe, many motels, shops, amusement parks and different companies canceled Halloween-themed occasions.

The group surge was South Korea’s deadliest catastrophe since 2014, when 304 individuals, principally highschool college students, died in a ferry sinking.

The sinking uncovered lax security guidelines and regulatory failures. It was partially blamed on extreme and poorly mounted cargo and a crew ill-trained for emergency conditions. Saturday’s deaths will probably draw public scrutiny of what authorities officers have finished to enhance public security requirements because the ferry catastrophe.

Associated Press writers Adam Schreck in Bangkok and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.