At least 151 dead and 82 injured in stampede during Halloween festivities in Seoul

A mass of mostly young people celebrating Halloween in Seoul were trapped and crushed as crowds rushed down a narrow alley, killing at least 151 people and injuring 82 others in Korea’s worst-ever disaster from the South for years.

Rescuers and pedestrians desperately performed CPR on people lying on the streets after the crash in the capital’s Itaewon entertainment district on Saturday night.

Those killed or injured were mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, according to Choi Seong-beom, fire chief of Yongsan in Seoul. The dead included 19 foreigners, he said, whose nationalities were not immediately revealed. The death toll could rise further, with 19 of the injured in critical condition.

At least 149 dead and 150 injured in stampede during Halloween festivities in Seoul
Police stand guard on October 30, 2022, near the alley where a stampede took place during Halloween celebrations in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea the night before. At least 149 people were killed.

ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images


At least one US citizen was injured in the stampede, the State Department told CBS News in a statement late Saturday.

“We are working with local authorities to determine if other U.S. citizens have been affected and we stand ready to provide consular assistance,” the statement said.

Officials initially said 150 people were injured on Sunday morning before later reducing their toll.

National Fire Agency officials did not immediately explain why the tally had been reduced, but said rescuers would have had a clearer idea of ​​casualties as rescue operations progressed and that some of the injured would have been converted to death. It was also possible that some of those who had been slightly injured had returned home during the night and were no longer counted.

About 100,000 people had gathered in Itaewon for the country’s biggest outdoor Halloween festivities since the start of the pandemic. The South Korean government has eased COVID-19 restrictions in recent months. Itaewon, near where the former headquarters of US military forces in South Korea operated before it left the capital in 2018, is an expat-friendly neighborhood known for its trendy bars, clubs and restaurants.

More than 1,700 response personnel from across the country have been deployed to the streets to help the injured, including about 520 firefighters, 1,100 police and 70 government employees. The National Fire Agency said separately in a statement that authorities were still trying to determine the exact number of emergency patients.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the crowds to rush into the narrow, downhill alley near the Hamilton Hotel, a major party spot in Seoul. A survivor said many people fell and toppled “like dominoes” after being pushed by others. The survivor, surnamed Kim, said he was trapped for about an hour and a half before being rescued, as some people shouted “Help me!” and others were out of breath, according to the Seoul-based Hankyoreh newspaper.

Another survivor, named Lee Chang-kyu, said he saw around five to six men start pushing the others before one or two started falling one by one at the start of the stampede, according to the newspaper.

The stampede is the biggest disaster since 304 people, mostly high school students, died in a ferry sinking in April 2014. The sinking revealed lax safety rules and regulatory failures, as it was partly blamed on excessive and ill-secured cargo and an ill-trained crew. emergency situations. Friday’s stampede is likely to provoke public criticism of government officials over what they have done to improve public safety standards since the ferry disaster.

Stampede during the Halloween festival in Seoul
Partygoers walk in an ambulance to the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during a Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, October 29, 2022.

KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS


Television footage and photos showed ambulances lined up in the streets amid a heavy police presence and rescue workers moving the injured on stretchers. Rescuers and pedestrians were also seen performing CPR on people lying in the streets. In one section, paramedics were seen checking the condition of a dozen or more people who lay motionless under blue blankets.

In an interview with the YTN news channel, Hwang Min-hyeok, one of the Itaewon visitors, said it was shocking to see rows of bodies lying in the alley near the Hamilton Hotel. He said rescuers were initially overwhelmed, leaving pedestrians struggling to administer CPR to injured people lying in the streets. People were crying next to the bodies, he said.

Another survivor in his 20s said he avoided being stepped on by chance entering a bar with an open door in the alley, Yonhap news agency reported. A woman in her twenties, surnamed Park, told Yonhap that she and others stood along the alley as others were caught in the middle.

Rescue team and firefighters work at the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during the Halloween festival in Seoul
Rescue team and firefighters work at the scene where dozens of people were injured in a stampede during the Halloween festival in Seoul, South Korea, on October 30, 2022.

Yonhap News Agency / REUTERS


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement calling on authorities to ensure prompt treatment of the injured and review the safety of party venues. He also asked the health ministry to quickly deploy disaster medical assistance teams and secure beds in the nearby hospital to treat the injured.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government sent emergency text messages urging area residents to return home quickly.

“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul,” President Biden said in a statement late Saturday. “We mourn with the people of the Republic of Korea and extend our best wishes for a speedy recovery to all those who have been injured. The Alliance between our two countries has never been more dynamic or more vital – and the bonds between our peoples are stronger than ever. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea in this tragic time.

There have been deadly stampedes in South Korea in the past. In 2005, 11 people were killed and around 60 others were injured during a stampede at a pop concert in the southern town of Sangju. In 1992, a teenage girl died and dozens of others were injured in a stampede at a Seoul concert by American pop group New Kids on the Block.