South Korea declares official mourning after the death of at least 153 people in Seoul by a stampede | International
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The South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, announced this Sunday the beginning of a period of national mourning due to the death of dozens of people in the stampede that occurred on Saturday night in the heart of Seoul, where they were having place several Halloween celebrations. The tragedy has so far caused 153 deaths and 82 injuries, 19 of them seriously. Most of the victims are teenagers and twenty-somethings, and among the deceased there are twenty foreigners, none of them Spanish, as reported by the Embassy of Spain in Korea. During a speech to the nation, the South Korean president promised an “in-depth investigation” and stressed that “the most important thing is to determine the causes of the accident and prevent similar ones.” The event is the deadliest in the country since the Sewol ferry capsized in 2014, an accident that killed 304 people, mainly high school students.
“It is a tragedy and a disaster that should not have happened,” Yoon lamented in a speech broadcast from the presidential office, in which he conveyed his condolences to the relatives of the victims. The South Korean leader has decreed “a period of national mourning that will last from today [domingo] until the accident is under control” and has declared emergency work “as the highest priority”. The Yonhap news agency reports that most of the events and parades organized for Halloween in the country have been cancelled.
Home Minister Lee Sang-min has pointed out that the police did not expect large crowds to gather at Halloween celebrations and therefore did not deploy more personnel to the area. A large part of the police assets were distributed in various parts of the city, where political groups and activists had organized different demonstrations during the afternoon.
“[En otro tipo de eventos] the organizers could be punished by law [por mala gestión]but it is difficult for anyone to take the blame for this event, since it was spontaneous, without a clear organizer, “explained this Sunday on national radio Yeom Gun-woong, professor at the Department of Police and Fire Administration of the University U1 .
Choi Sung-beom, chief of the Yongsan District Fire Department in Seoul, has confirmed that at least 153 people died and 82 were injured in the stampede that occurred around 10:22 p.m. local time on Saturday (2:22 p.m. Spanish peninsular time). ) in the vicinity of the Hamilton hotel, in front of the Itaweon subway station. Choi added that many of the victims — most of them women in their 20s — were near a nightclub. At least 20 of the deceased are foreigners, of Chinese, American, Australian, Iranian, Uzbek and Norwegian nationality. The number of victims could rise in the coming hours, as the police are trying to identify some 350 people whose disappearances have been reported to local authorities.
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The stampede took place in an alley about four meters wide and 45 long that is on a slope and leads to the main street and the subway station. According to witnesses quoted by the South Korean media, dozens of people fell at the top of the slope, causing a chain collapse. Although it is still unknown what caused the incident, local media echo testimonies that speak of the presence of a celebrity in a bar in the area or the circulation of narcotics. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency has indicated that, for the moment, no case of drug use related to the event has been detected, and has opened an investigation to check if the surrounding establishments complied with the security regulations. .
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 been displaced to the Itaewon neighborhood to care for the victims. More than a hundred of those killed died after being taken to hospital, while 45 died at the scene of the stampede and their bodies were taken to a nearby gym. From the Ministry of the Interior they have reported that around 12:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m. Spanish peninsular time) 90% of the bodies had already been identified. The Korea Herald indicates that in the death count there are 97 women and 54 men.
The videos that are circulating from the scene show hundreds of people crammed into the street unable to move, firefighters trying to help them, body bags in the streets and emergency workers performing CPR. Some survivors were trapped in the crowd for more than an hour. Both firefighters and witnesses affirm that, despite the fact that the street was overflowing, people continued to push to enter. Choi, the fire chief, said all the deaths could have been caused by crowding in the alley.
Moon Ju-young, 21, quoted by Reuters, criticized that there were signs that something was wrong since before the avalanche occurred, and assured that the place was ten times more crowded than usual. Itaewon is one of the most popular neighborhoods among young people and foreigners, and where thousands of people come every year to see the Christmas lights or enjoy fireworks. Adjacent to a US military base, Itaewon has also long been the busiest spot in the South Korean capital to celebrate Halloween. An estimated 100,000 people were there on Saturday, after three years of numerous restrictions to curb the pandemic. South Korea has allowed gatherings of more than 10 people in restaurants since April, and removed the mandatory wearing of masks outdoors in May.
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.
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