National Mourning declared in South Korea after Halloween stampede kills 153

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning on Sunday after a Halloween crush killed some 153 people in a packed nightlife area in Seoul.

Yoon expressed condolences to the victims, mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, and his wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.“This is truly tragic,” he said in a statement.

“A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul last night.”A huge crowd celebrating in the popular Itaewon district surged into an alley on Saturday night, emergency officials said, adding the death toll could rise.

Police have told the BBC that 25 foreign nationals died in the stampede, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports that people from the United States, France, Australia, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Austria are among the dead. Meanwhile, a sudden surge of Halloween crowds instantly packed a narrow 4-metre-wide downhill alley in Seoul’s Itaewon district, with hundreds left unable to move or escape, before some began to fall over and knock others down, resulting in the deadliest stampede in South Korea, witnesses and authorities said Sunday.

It was the deadliest accident in South Korea since the sinking of the ferry Sewol in 2014 that killed 304 high-school students and others.

With its hip nightlife and chic restaurants, Itaewon, home to expat communities in central Seoul, is by far the most popular spot for Halloween partygoers, and tens of thousands of people visited the area on that night.It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years after the country lifted COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing. Many of the partygoers were wearing masks and Halloween costumes.

An estimated 100,000 people had gathered in Itaewon for the country’s biggest outdoor Halloween festivities since the pandemic began.

The South Korean Government eased COVID-19 restrictions in recent months. This disaster was also Asia’s second major crushing disaster in a month. On October 1, Police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a soccer match, causing a crush that killed 132 people as spectators attempted to flee.

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



by Daily News Sri Lanka

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