At least 151 people were killed and dozens more hurt in an apparent crowd surge at packed Halloween festivities in the South Korean capital of Seoul, local officials say. Nineteen foreign nationals are among the dead. The victims include people from Iran, Norway, China and Uzbekistan
The crush took place in the nightlife district of Itaewon. What caused the crush is not clear, but witnesses say partygoers had been packed tightly in the district’s narrow streets and it was difficult to move around. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has declared a period of national mourning.
The human crush at Itaewon was “not a problem that could have been solved in advance,” South Korea’s Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min said on Sunday.
“It was expected that many citizens would gather so a considerable number of police and security forces were deployed,” Lee said. “But we understand that it was not a problem that could have been solved by deploying police or firefighters in advance.”
He added that there had been “various disturbances and demonstrations” in other parts of Seoul last night.
“There was such an aspect where police and security forces were a bit dispersed to these places,” he said.
Speaking before the minister’s comments, Juliette Kayyem, a disaster management expert and national security analyst for CNN, had said it was hard to pinpoint what might have triggered the crush, but that authorities would have “anticipated high numbers” in the area.
“There is a responsibility on the part of the authorities to be monitoring crowd volume in real time, so they can sense the need to get people out,” Kayyem said.
South Korean authorities have received at least 3,580 missing person reports as of 12 p.m. local time on Sunday (11 p. m. ET Saturday), following a crush at Halloween festivities in Seoul that killed at least 151 people.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government said it had set up a situation room for the incident at a nearby community center and was receiving reports through visits and phone calls.
It added that a public memorial will be set up.
(With the inputs of CNN world).