At least 149 dead and more than 150 injured after an avalanche in a popular entertainment district in Seoul | International
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At least 149 people have died and more than 150 are injured, some of them seriously, after a stampede occurred this Saturday night in the center of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, according to the agency. of Yonhap news. According to the Central Office for Disasters and Security of the South Korean Ministry of the Interior, the incident took place in the Itaewon neighborhood around 10:22 p.m. local time (2:22 p.m. Spanish peninsular time) in the surroundings of the Hamilton hotel, located in front of a station of subway. Every year, Itaewon, which abuts a US military base, becomes the busiest spot for celebrating Halloween in the South Korean capital. Among the wounded transferred to hospitals, there are foreigners, according to Reuters, but it is still unknown whose nationalities.
Although the details of the accident are under investigation, local media report that a large crowd began to push in a narrow and sloping alley near the Hamilton hotel. According to witnesses quoted by South Korean media, several people fell at the top of the slope, causing a chain collapse. It is suspected that the stampede could have occurred after an unidentified celebrity entered one of the bars in the area, causing nervousness among people who rushed to try to take photos. It is estimated that some 100,000 people were in this nightlife neighborhood to celebrate the Halloween weekend, the first without masks or social distancing measures since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.
The National Fire Agency has reported that a total of 81 people called for help on Saturday night to the emergency services for having difficulty breathing. Around 1,700 members of the emergency services and security forces, including 517 firefighters and 1,100 police officers, as well as 140 vehicles from other South Korean locations, including all available personnel from Seoul, have traveled to the Itaewon neighborhood. to care for the victims. Choi Tae-young, head of the Seoul Metropolitan Central Fire and Disaster Bureau, is leading rescue operations, while the Korean capital’s metropolitan police are working to determine the circumstances of the accident. Public Administration and Security Minister Lee Sang-min was on the scene to oversee the rescue efforts.
In a press conference, the Yongsan district fire department explained that of the approximately 100 injured initially reported, at least 25 were receiving “resuscitation” maneuvers. A fire department official later quoted by Reuters raised the number of survivors in serious condition to 19, so the death toll could rise in the coming hours.
After learning of the stampede, Seoul had reported people “treated for cardiac arrest”, but in South Korea the term “cardiac arrest” is often used until there is an official announcement of death by a doctor. However, the emergency services “still try to find out the exact number of injured people,” said a spokesman, given the “chaos” that still reigns in the area.
Of those who died, at least 101 died after being transferred to the hospital, while another 45 lost their lives at the scene of the stampede and their bodies were later transferred to a nearby gym, as reported by the National Fire Agency, which has indicated that the identification of the bodies will take some time. The newspaper The Korea Herald states that most of the victims are young girls, around 20 years old.
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Videos circulating from the scene show body bags in the streets, emergency workers performing CPR and firefighters trying to help dozens of trapped people. The authorities have reported that more than fifty people have received cardiopulmonary resuscitation, while many others have been transferred to nearby hospitals. Police have restricted traffic in the area to speed up the transfer of the injured to hospitals.
According to local media, the authorities sent an emergency message to all mobile phones in Yongsan district, urging citizens to return home as soon as possible due to “an accident near the Hamilton hotel in Itaewon.” Some posts on social networks prior to the stampede already warned that there were more people than usual on the streets.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has called an emergency cabinet meeting and ordered first-aid services to rush to the scene to help those affected. He has also requested that nearby hospitals be prepared with a sufficient number of beds to treat the wounded. For his part, the mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, who was visiting Europe, has decided to return immediately to the South Korean capital after the accident, according to municipal authorities.
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