Seoul Halloween stampede: Panicked emergency calls reveal crowd’s surge fears

Emergency call transcripts from the hours and minutes prior to the huge crowd surge in South Korea which killed 156 people have revealed Halloween revellers’ fears of the impending disaster in Itaewon.

“People will get crushed to death here. It’s chaotic,” a caller said in one of 11 transcripts released by Seoul police. At least one caller urged the authorities to help ease the huge crowds, while another warned: “People are falling down on the streets, looks like there could be an accident.”

Police have since admitted “heavy responsibility“ for failures in preventing and responding to the crowd surge, with South Korea’s interior minister and Seoul’s mayor also offering public apologies amid growing public anger.

National police chief Yoon Hee Keun said police officers who received urgent calls from those in the crowds failed to handle them effectively, adding: “Police will do their best to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

President Yoon Suk-yeol has launched a major inquiry and called for new safety measures to prevent such a disaster from happening again.

Key points

  • Emergency calls reveal revellers’ fears of impending disaster

  • South Korea police admits ‘heavy responsibility’ in Halloween tragedy

  • Seoul mayor offers public apology for Halloween stampede

  • Death toll from Halloween crush rises to 156

  • South Korea president calls for safety measures to prevent crowd accidents

15:50 , Andy Gregory

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You can click here to find our latest reports on events in Seoul.

Or keep scrolling to catch up on the latest developments, as we reported them.

How did the Seoul stampede happen?

Monday 31 October 2022 08:58 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The Itaewon area, famous for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, is the country’s hottest spot for Halloween-themed events and parties, which had increasing popularity among young South Koreans in recent years.

An estimated 100,000 people were gathered there in the country’s largest Halloween celebrations since the pandemic began.

But some business owners in Itaewon say an even larger number of people gathered there in pre-pandemic Halloween weekend festivities.

Police said in a statement they fielded 137 officers to maintain order during Halloween festivities last Saturday — much more than the 34-90 officers mobilized in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Citing the figures, police dismissed as “different from the truth” speculations that a police station in the area suffered understaffing because it’s been providing extra security to Yoon, who relocated the country’s presidential office to a site near Itaewon.

The police statement said police-provided security for a president has long been handled by two special police units and that the units have nothing to do with the Yongsan police station, whose jurisdiction includes Itaewon.

Some observers say the scope of the police investigation would include an apparent lack of safety steps, as well as looking into witness accounts of the stampede being caused by some people intentionally pushing others and making them fall.

In pictures: Tributes left for those killed in the stampede

Monday 31 October 2022 09:24 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Hundreds of flowers and messages were left by those who have paid tribute to the victims of the Halloween stampede in Itaewon.

Personal messages and meaningful food dishes were left at the tribute site near the scene of the tragic incident.

A mourner lays flowers at a tribute site for those killed in the stampede (REUTERS)
A mourner lays flowers at a tribute site for those killed in the stampede (REUTERS)
Meaningful notes and food left in tribute for those crushed in Itaewon (REUTERS)
Meaningful notes and food left in tribute for those crushed in Itaewon (REUTERS)
People pay their respects near the scene of the Halloween stampede (REUTERS)
People pay their respects near the scene of the Halloween stampede (REUTERS)

Lee Ji-han: 24-year-old South Korean actor died in Seoul crowd crush, agency confirms

Monday 31 October 2022 09:44 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

South Korean actor Lee Ji-han was among the 154 people to die in the crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul, on Saturday (29 October).

At least 132 other people are reported to be injured, including 37 in serious condition, with fears that the death toll could still rise.

An estimated 100,000 people had gathered in the city’s nightlife district for Halloween celebrations when the fatal crush occurred.

On Sunday (30 October), acting agencies 935 Entertainment and 9ato Entertainment confirmed that Lee had been killed in the disaster.

Louis Chilton has more:

24-year-old actor Lee Ji-han dies in Seoul crowd crush

King and Queen Consort express ‘deep shock and sadness’ over Seoul stampede

Monday 31 October 2022 10:09 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In a message of condolence to the President of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol, the King said the UK “stands in solidarity” with the people of South Korea following the Halloween party crush in Seoul.

His message, signed Charles R., read: “I wanted you to know how deeply shocked and saddened both my wife and I are to hear of the many people who have lost their loved ones as a consequence of the recent, tragic incident in Itaewon, Seoul.

“However inadequate this may be under such heartbreaking circumstances, we extend our deepest possible sympathy to all the bereaved families. We also offer our special thoughts and wishes for a speedy recovery to all those who suffered injury.

“Recalling our meeting during your own gracious visit to London to attend the funeral of Her late Majesty The Queen, please be assured that the United Kingdom stands in solidarity with the people of the Republic of Korea at such a time of national mourning.”

Families of foreign nationals killed in stampede share tributes

Monday 31 October 2022 10:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Of the 154 killed in the stampede, 26 people were foreign nationals.

One of the Americans killed was Anne Gieske, a University of Kentucky nursing student from northern Kentucky who was doing a study-abroad program in South Korea, the university said in a statement. The other was Steven Blesi, 20, his father, Steve Blesi, wrote on Twitter after earlier seeking information about his son.

Blesi appealed for information after not hearing from his son, asking, “If anyone has any news please share.” After a flood of responses offering help and support, he tweeted, “We just got confirmation our son died,” followed by “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.”

Australian victim Grace Rached, a Sydney film production assistant, was described by her family as “our life of the party.” Her family said in a statement that “We are missing our gorgeous angel Grace, who lit up the room with her infectious smile.”

The Japanese dead included Mei Tomikawa, who was studying Korean language in Seoul, according to Japanese media. Her father, Ayumu Tomikawa, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that his daughter “really liked South Korea and was enjoying her life there.”

A look at some of the world's major crowd disasters

Monday 31 October 2022 10:51 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

In case you missed it...

It has been confirmed that 154 people were killed and hundreds more were injured as they were crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the capital of Seoul, South Korea.

Here a look at some of the major crowd disasters around the world in recent decades:

A look at some of the world's major crowd disasters

South Korean families desperate for answers after loved ones crushed in Seoul tragedy

Monday 31 October 2022 11:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The loved ones of victims killed in a stampede in South Korea are searching for answers as the death toll tops 150.

Partygoers, mostly teenagers and young adults, flooded the streets of the neighbourhood of Itaewon in Seoul to enjoy the country’s first Halloween celebrations since the lifting of Covid restrictions.

But the night took a tragic turn as the crowd surged into “a hell-like” chaos and revellers fell on each other “like dominoes”.

My colleague Aisha Rimi has more:

Families desperate for answers as loved ones crushed in South Korea Halloween tragedy

South Korea’s deadly Halloween crush was avoidable, experts say- Part one

Monday 31 October 2022 11:32 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Proper crowd and traffic control by South Korean authorities could have prevented or at least reduced the surge of Halloween party-goers in alleys that led to a crush and the deaths of 154 people, safety experts said on Monday.

The annual festivities in the popular nightlife area of Itaewon in Seoul also did not have a central organising entity, which meant government authorities were not required to establish or enforce safety protocols.

District authorities for Yongsan, where Itaewon is located, discussed measures to prevent illegal drug use and the spread of COVID-19 during the Halloween weekend, according to a district press release. There was, however, no mention of crowd control.

On Saturday when the tragedy occurred, roughly 100,000 people were estimated to be in Itaewon, an area known for its hills and narrow alleys. According to Seoul Metro, some 81,573 people disembarked at Itaewon subway station on the day, up from around 23,800 a week earlier and about 35,950 on Friday.

But there were only 137 police officers in Itaewon at the time, the city of Seoul said.

In contrast, at rallies by labour unions and by supporters of President Yoon Suk-yeol that drew tens of thousands in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, on the same Saturday, up to 4,000 police were deployed, a police official said.

“Police are now working on a thorough analysis of the incident’s cause,” Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min said on Monday.

“It’s not appropriate to make hasty conclusions before the exact cause is determined - whether it was caused by a lack of police or whether there is something that we should fundamentally change for rallies and gatherings.”

South Korea’s deadly Halloween crush was avoidable, experts say- Part two

Monday 31 October 2022 11:47 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Just two weeks before the tragic stampede, the Itaewon Global Village Festival organised by a tourism association and sponsored by the city of Seoul and Yongsan district, had people wearing yellow vests directing the flow of movement and the main road was closed to car traffic.

But on Saturday, there were just thousands of shops open for business, normal car traffic rules and tens of thousands of young people eager to celebrate Halloween without major Covid restrictions for the first time since the pandemic.

“Just because it’s not named a ‘festival’ doesn’t mean there should be any difference in terms of disaster management,” said Paek Seung-joo, a professor of fire & disaster protection at Open Cyber University of Korea.

“As there was no central authority, each government arm just did what they usually do - the fire department prepared for fires and the police prepared for crime. There needs to be a system where a local government takes the reins and cooperates with other authorities to prepare for the worst,” he said.

Moon Hyeon-cheol, a professor at the Graduate School of Disaster Safety Management at Soongsil University, said this type of crush had the potential to happen in any populous city.

“We need to take this tragedy and learn to prepare for the risk of disaster,” he said.

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Monday 31 October 2022 12:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

An Australian survivor of the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul has told of how people filmed, sang and laughed while his friends were dying.

At least 154 people are believed to have died in the Itaewon stampede on Saturday, while 132 others are reported to have been injured, including 37 in serious condition, amid fears this number will rise in the coming days.

Those killed or hurt were mostly teenagers and people in their twenties, according to Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul‘s Yongsan fire department.

Emily Atkinson has more:

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

In pictures: People grieve and pay respects in Seoul

Monday 31 October 2022 12:48 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

More photos have been released of people grieving and paying their respects following the Halloween stampede in Seoul on Saturday night.

Emotions run high as people gather near the scene of the stampede (REUTERS)
Emotions run high as people gather near the scene of the stampede (REUTERS)
A woman pays respects near the scene of a crowd crush (REUTERS)
A woman pays respects near the scene of a crowd crush (REUTERS)
People comfort each other as they grieve those lost in the stampede (REUTERS)
People comfort each other as they grieve those lost in the stampede (REUTERS)

Deaths from stampede are ‘manmade disaster'

Monday 31 October 2022 13:01 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

As South Korea mourns, officials face tough questions as experts say the death should be seen as a “manmade disaster”.

The national government has insisted there was no way to predict the crowd would get out of control.

Experts disagree. Deploying so few police officers, they said, showed officials were poorly prepared despite knowing ahead of time that there would be a huge gathering following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in recent months.

On top of assigning more personnel, police and officials in the Yongsan district, which governs Itaewon, should have pedestrianized some streets and taken other measures to ease the crowding in narrow lanes like the one where the deaths occurred, experts said.

Instead, the 137 officers in Itaewon were assigned to monitor crime, with a particular focus on narcotics use, meaning that for all practical purposes “no one was looking after pedestrian safety,” said Kong Ha-song, a disaster prevention professor at South Korea‘s Woosuk University.

The deaths should be seen as a “manmade disaster,” said Lee Changmoo, an urban planning professor at Seoul’s Hanyang University.

Authorities have come under similar criticism in national media and on social networks. The headline of an editorial in the Hankyoreh newspaper on Sunday described the tragedy as “all too avoidable.” The paper said its reporting showed that a pedestrian got knocked down by a crowd in Itaewon a day before Halloween festivities — although no one was hurt.

Australian man recalls ‘slow, agonising crush’ which killed his friend

Monday 31 October 2022 13:18 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

An Australian who survived the tragic crush in Seoul paid tribute to his friend who died on Saturday night.

In a now deleted TikTok video, Nathan Taverniti, spoke of what he called a “slow, agonising crush” that became the country’s worst disaster in years.

Grace Rached, 23, had been holidaying in the South Korean capital and would have turned 24 next week.

“I was there when she said she couldn’t breathe and I grabbed one of my friends’ hands,” Taverniti said, wiping away tears.

He went on to reject media reports which framed the crowd surge as a “stampede” which saw around 100,000 people gather in Itaewon for the country’s biggest Halloween celebration since the pandemic began.

“It was a slow, agonising crush. This crush was not caused by drunk people. It was lack of planning, police force and emergency services,” Taverniti said.

“And nobody was willing to help. I watched as people filmed and sang and laughed while my friends were dying, along with many other people.

“I was there trying to pull people out because there was not enough police officers and nobody was doing anything to make the crowd stop.”

He added: “We were yelling, we were saying ‘you have to go back, you have to turn around, people are dying’, but nobody was listening.”

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Monday 31 October 2022 13:50 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

An Australian survivor of the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul has told of how people filmed, sang and laughed while his friends were dying.

At least 154 people are believed to have died in the Itaewon stampede on Saturday, while 132 others are reported to have been injured, including 37 in serious condition, amid fears this number will rise in the coming days.

Those killed or hurt were mostly teenagers and people in their twenties, according to Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul‘s Yongsan fire department.

Among the 26 foreign nationals who died was film producer Grace Rached, 23, from Sydney, Australia, who has been described by her family as a “gorgeous angel” who lit up a room with her “infectious smile”.

Emily Atkinson reports:

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Two American college students among the 154 people killed in Seoul crowd disaster

Monday 31 October 2022 14:20 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Two American college students were among the 154 people killed in a crowd disaster during Halloween celebrations in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Saturday night.

South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol declared a week-long period of national mourning on Sunday for those who lost their lives in the crush that resulted after as many as 100,000 revellers packed tightly into the Itaewon nightlife district.

Among the dead was Anna Gieske, 20, an American nursing student at the University of Kentucky who had been studying abroad in South Korea and recording her travels on Instagram.

Two American college students among the 154 people killed in Seoul crowd disaster

Lee Ji-han: 24-year-old South Korean actor died in Seoul crowd crush, agency confirms

Monday 31 October 2022 14:51 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

South Korean actor Lee Ji-han was among the 154 people to die in the crowd crush in Itaewon, Seoul, on Saturday (29 October).

At least 132 other people are reported to be injured, including 37 in serious condition, with fears that the death toll could still rise.

An estimated 100,000 people had gathered in the city’s nightlife district for Halloween celebrations when the fatal crush occurred.

On Sunday (30 October), acting agencies 935 Entertainment and 9ato Entertainment confirmed that Lee had been killed in the disaster.

24-year-old actor Lee Ji-han dies in Seoul crowd crush

Watch: King Charles sends condolences to South Korea after more than 150 killed in Seoul stampede

Monday 31 October 2022 15:25 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

The King and Queen Consort sent a message of solidarity to the victims and community in Seoul following the tragic stampede which killed 154 people, with the death toll expected to rise.

Seoul stampede is a ‘manmade disaster'

Monday 31 October 2022 15:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

On top of assigning more personnel, police and officials in the Yongsan district, which governs Itaewon, should have pedestrianised some streets and taken other measures to ease the crowding in narrow lanes like the one where the deaths occurred, experts have said.

Instead, the 137 officers in Itaewon were assigned to monitor crime, with a particular focus on narcotics use, meaning that for all practical purposes “no one was looking after pedestrian safety,” said Kong Ha-song, a disaster prevention professor at South Korea‘s Woosuk University.

The deaths should be seen as a “manmade disaster,” said Lee Changmoo, an urban planning professor at Seoul’s Hanyang University.

Authorities have come under similar criticism in national media and on social networks. The headline of an editorial in the Hankyoreh newspaper on Sunday described the tragedy as “all too avoidable.” The paper said its reporting showed that a pedestrian got knocked down by a crowd in Itaewon a day before Halloween festivities — although no one was hurt.

Emergency workers move bodies from site of deadly crush

Monday 31 October 2022 16:30 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Harrowing scenes show emergency services moving bodies from the site of the stampede.

Families of foreign nationals killed in stampede share tributes

Monday 31 October 2022 17:00 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Of the 154 killed in the stampede, 26 people were foreign nationals.

One of the Americans killed was Anne Gieske, a University of Kentucky nursing student from northern Kentucky who was doing a study-abroad program in South Korea, the university said in a statement. The other was Steven Blesi, 20, his father, Steve Blesi, wrote on Twitter after earlier seeking information about his son.

Blesi appealed for information after not hearing from his son, asking, “If anyone has any news please share.” After a flood of responses offering help and support, he tweeted, “We just got confirmation our son died,” followed by “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.”

Australian victim Grace Rached, a Sydney film production assistant, was described by her family as “our life of the party.” Her family said in a statement that “We are missing our gorgeous angel Grace, who lit up the room with her infectious smile.”

The Japanese dead included Mei Tomikawa, who was studying Korean language in Seoul, according to Japanese media. Her father, Ayumu Tomikawa, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that his daughter “really liked South Korea and was enjoying her life there.”

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Monday 31 October 2022 17:21 , Joe Middleton

An Australian survivor of the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul has told of how people filmed, sang and laughed while his friends were dying.

At least 154 people are believed to have died in the Itaewon stampede on Saturday, while 132 others are reported to have been injured, including 37 in serious condition, amid fears this number will rise in the coming days.

Those killed or hurt were mostly teenagers and people in their twenties, according to Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul‘s Yongsan fire department.

Emily Atkinson reports.

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed 154 and injured 149 unfolded in real time

Monday 31 October 2022 18:02 , Joe Middleton

South Korea is in a one-week shock mourning after the country’s citizens witnessed one of the worst disasters that happened overnight in years and caused the deaths of 154 people and leaving almost as many injured.

A night that was supposed to be a stress-free celebration of Halloween after two years of pandemic restrictions in the streets of Seoul led instead to a massive pile-up that prompted the country’s prime minister Han Duck-soo to announce a stringent probe into the night’s events.

The crush happened when a massive 100,000-plus crowd of revellers on Saturday flocked for festivities in the district of Itaewon in Seoul – a metropolis known for its tough living conditions and punishing, cramped living and public spaces for its residents.

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed 154 and injured 149 unfolded in real time

King Charles sends condolences to South Korea after more than 150 killed in Seoul stampede

Monday 31 October 2022 19:12 , Joe Middleton

Pictured: mourners react near the scene of the tragic crush in Seoul

Monday 31 October 2022 20:17 , Joe Middleton

People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)
People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)
People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)
People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)
People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)
People react near the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea (REUTERS)

Empty streets in nightlife district as city mourns

Monday 31 October 2022 21:54 , Sam Rkaina

The streets of Itaewon were virtually empty for Halloween tonight, as the city mourns the scores of people who lost their lives at the weekend.

Many of those in the deadly crowd crush had been out to celebrate the festivities early on Saturday night when tragedy ensued.

Shops have closed and concerts cancelled as the nation enters a period of national mourning.

A nearly empty Itaewon district during Halloween on October 31 (Getty Images)
A nearly empty Itaewon district during Halloween on October 31 (Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Seoul stampede: Fire chief shakes as he discusses victims in wake of tragedy

Monday 31 October 2022 22:58 , Joe Middleton

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Monday 31 October 2022 23:59 , Joe Middleton

An Australian survivor of the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul has told of how people filmed, sang and laughed while his friends were dying.

At least 154 people are believed to have died in the Itaewon stampede on Saturday, while 132 others are reported to have been injured, including 37 in serious condition, amid fears this number will rise in the coming days.

Those killed or hurt were mostly teenagers and people in their twenties, according to Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul‘s Yongsan fire department.

Seoul crowd crush survivor says ‘people filmed while my friends were dying’

Seoul stampede: Densely packed crowd surges in Halloween party event

00:59 , Joe Middleton

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed 154 and injured 149 unfolded in real time

01:59 , Joe Middleton

South Korea is in a one-week shock mourning after the country’s citizens witnessed one of the worst disasters that happened overnight in years and caused the deaths of 154 people and leaving almost as many injured.

A night that was supposed to be a stress-free celebration of Halloween after two years of pandemic restrictions in the streets of Seoul led instead to a massive pile-up that prompted the country’s prime minister Han Duck-soo to announce a stringent probe into the night’s events.

The crush happened when a massive 100,000-plus crowd of revellers on Saturday flocked for festivities in the district of Itaewon in Seoul – a metropolis known for its tough living conditions and punishing, cramped living and public spaces for its residents.

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed 154 and injured 149 unfolded in real time

King Charles sends condolences to South Korea after more than 150 killed in Seoul stampede

02:59 , Sam Rkaina

Crowd control at site of Halloween crush ‘inadequate’, says South Korea police chief

03:20 , Namita Singh

South Korea’s police chief today said that crowd control in the area where a crush killed more than 150 party-goers in central Seoul was “inadequate.”

Yoon Hee-keun made the remark at a news briefing televised live, saying he felt heavy responsibility over the incident, where a surge in Halloween partiers trapped in narrow alleys killed 155 people and injured another 152.

People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Police launch a 475-member task force to investigate the crush

03:24 , Namita Singh

Seoul police said they’ve launched a 475-member task force to investigate the crush.

Officers have obtained videos taken by about 50 security cameras in the area and are also analysing video clips posted on social media.

They have interviewed more than 40 witnesses and survivors so far, senior police officer Nam Gu-Jun told reporters Monday.

Other police officers said they are trying to find exactly when and where the crowd surge started and how it developed. They said a team of police officers and government forensic experts searched the Itaewon area on Monday.

A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

“The government will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and do its best to make necessary improvements of systems to prevent a similar accident from recurring,” prime minister Han Duck-soo said at the start of a government meeting on the disaster.

The Itaewon area, famous for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, is the country’s hottest spot for Halloween-themed events and parties, which have grown increasingly popular among young South Koreans in recent years.

An estimated 100,000 people were gathered there on Saturday night for the country’s largest Halloween celebration since the pandemic began.

Breaking: Death toll from Halloween crush rises to 156

03:39 , Namita Singh

The death toll from Saturday’s Halloween crush has risen to 156, the South Korean interior ministry says.

A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Everything we know about the deadly Seoul stampede that killed 154 people

03:59 , Joe Middleton

More than 100,000 people had descended on the South Korean capital of Seoul on Saturday night, excited for the city’s first grand Halloween celebration in three years, a night that turned into an unimaginable tragedy when one of the deadliest stampedes the country has ever seen erupted.

The incident happened in Seoul’s popular Itaewon district, when a huge crowd surged into a narrow downhill alley, causing hundreds of young partygoers, mainly in their 20s and 30s to become crushed in the melee.

The death toll from the disaster now stands at 154, including 22 foreign nationals and the well-known actor Lee Ji-han, 24.

Everything we know about the deadly Seoul stampede that killed 154 people

At least 26 foreign nationals among dead in Seoul stampede

04:10 , Namita Singh

At least 26 foreign nationals have died in the Saturday night’s Seoul stampede.

One of the Americans killed was Anne Gieske, a University of Kentucky nursing student from northern Kentucky who was doing a study-abroad programme in South Korea, the university said in a statement. The other was Steven Blesi, 20, his father, Steve Blesi, wrote on Twitter after earlier seeking information about his son.

Blesi appealed for information after not hearing from his son, asking: “If anyone has any news please share.”

People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

After a flood of responses offering help and support, he tweeted, “We just got confirmation our son died,” followed by “Thank you for the outpouring of love. We need time to grieve.”

Australian victim Grace Rached, a Sydney film production assistant, was described by her family as “our life of the party.” Her family said in a statement that: “We are missing our gorgeous angel Grace, who lit up the room with her infectious smile.”

The Japanese dead included Mei Tomikawa, who was studying Korean language in Seoul, according to Japanese media. Her father, Ayumu Tomikawa, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that his daughter “really liked South Korea and was enjoying her life there.”

Police says no established procedures for handling crowd surge events

04:17 , Namita Singh

Halloween festivities in Itaewon have no official organisers, and South Korean police said on Monday they don’t have any specific procedures for handling incidents such as crowd surges during an event that has no organisers.

Police said they dispatched 137 officers to maintain order during Halloween festivities on Saturday, much more than the 34-90 officers mobilised in 2017, 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic.

Monks pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
Monks pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Citing those figures, police dismissed as “different from the truth” speculation that a police station in the area was understaffed because it was providing extra security for Yoon, who earlier moved the presidential office to a site near Itaewon.

They said police-provided security for presidents has long been handled by two special police units which have nothing to do with the Yongsan police station, whose jurisdiction includes Itaewon.

Several Halloween-themed events canceled after Saturday’s stampede

04:44 , Namita Singh

Following Saturday’s Halloween crush, many hotels, department stores, amusement parks and other businesses canceled Halloween-themed events.

The crowd surge was South Korea’s deadliest disaster since 2014, when 304 people, mostly high school students, died in a ferry sinking.

Nearly empty Itaewon district during Halloween day on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
Nearly empty Itaewon district during Halloween day on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

The sinking exposed lax safety rules and regulatory failures. It was partially blamed on excessive and poorly fastened cargo and a crew ill-trained for emergency situations. Saturday’s deaths will likely draw public scrutiny of what government officials have done to improve public safety standards since the ferry disaster.

South Korean president declares a week long national mourning

04:48 , Namita Singh

President Yoon Suk-yeol on Sunday declared a one-week national mourning period and ordered flags at government buildings and public offices to fly at half staff. He said better responses were critical, including improved crowd control.

“We should come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowds, not only on these streets where this massive disaster took place but at other places like stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather,” he said at a cabinet meeting.

All the victims have been identified and memorial altars have been set up at the Seoul city hall and in the Itaewon district, where citizens paid their respects.

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol holds a flower for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol holds a flower for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Lee has come under sharp public criticism for his comments about the role of police. On social media, some Koreans said precautions were inadequate for an event that had been expected to draw large crowds.

The government opened special memorial sites on Monday in Seoul and other major cities. Tens of thousands of people, including Yoon and other top officials visited the sites, placed white flowers and bowed deeply. Many people also laid chrysanthemums, bottles of Korean “soju” liquor, candles and snacks near an Itaewon subway station and posted a host of condolence messages.

South Korea president calls for safety measures to prevent crowd accidents

04:51 , Namita Singh

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol has called for better safety measures to prevent accidents with large numbers of casualties, saying the Halloween crush that killed more than 150 in the capital shows the importance of crowd management, his office said.

Mr Yoon made the remarks as he presided over a cabinet meeting this morning, and police began investigating how a crowd surge among Halloween party-goers trapped in narrow alleys killed so many.

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol reads messages written by mourners while paying tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol reads messages written by mourners while paying tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

We should come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowd, not only on these streets where this massive disaster took place but at other places like stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather.

President Yoon Suk-yeol

South Korea vows tough action and speedy inquiry over Halloween crush

04:53 , Namita Singh

South Korea moved to calm public outrage on Tuesday over a Halloween party crush that killed more than 150 people, most of them young, promising a speedy and intensive inquiry and calling for tough new safety measures to prevent similar disasters.

National police commissioner general Yoon Hee-keun said that crowd control at the scene was “inadequate”. The country’s chief security officer, interior minister Lee Sang-min, had said deploying more police would not have prevented the disaster.

I feel limitless responsibility about public safety over this accident and I will do my best to make sure such a tragedy as this does not occur again.

Yoon Hee-keun

“The police will speedily and rigorously conduct intensive inspections and investigation on all aspects without exception to explain the truth of this accident,” he added.

‘Manmade disaster’: Officials criticised over Seoul deaths

06:09 , Namita Singh

Seoul police assigned 137 officers to manage a crowd of Halloween revelers anticipated to number more than 100,000 over the weekend — a decision that has come under intense criticism following the deaths of more than 150 people when the group surged.

By comparison, nearly 7,000 police officers were sent to another part of the South Korean capital on Saturday to monitor dueling protests that drew tens of thousands – but still fewer people than flocked to the popular nightlife district of Itaewon the same night.

Even the task force created to investigate why the crowd surged, with 475 members, is more than three times larger than the detail assigned to crowd control.

As South Korea mourns, officials are facing tough questions about preparations for the celebrations and demands for accountability in the wake of the country’s worst disaster in nearly a decade.

A woman pays tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
A woman pays tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

The national government has insisted there was no way to predict the crowd would get out of control.

Experts disagree. Deploying so few police officers, they said, showed officials were poorly prepared despite knowing ahead of time that there would be a huge gathering following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in recent months.

On top of assigning more personnel, police and officials in the Yongsan district, which governs Itaewon, should have banned cars from some streets and taken other measures to ease the crowding in narrow lanes like the one where the deaths occurred, experts said.

Instead, the 137 officers in Itaewon were assigned to monitor crime, with a particular focus on narcotics use, meaning that for all practical purposes “no one was looking after pedestrian safety,” said Kong Ha-song, a disaster prevention professor at South Korea’s Woosuk University.

The deaths should be seen as a “manmade disaster,” said Lee Changmoo, an urban planning professor at Seoul’s Hanyang University.

Authorities have come under similar criticism in national media and on social networks. The headline of an editorial in the Hankyoreh newspaper on Sunday described the tragedy as “all too avoidable.”

The paper said its reporting showed that a pedestrian got knocked down by a crowd in Itaewon a day before the Halloween festivities — although no one was hurt.

South Korea Halloween crush victims’ belongings fill quiet lost-and-found centre

06:12 , Namita Singh

A temporary morgue for some of the people killed in South Korea’s Halloween party crush is now a huge lost-and-found, where hundreds of items such as a “Happy Halloween” backpack and a Minnie Mouse hairband await their owners.

The Wonhyoro sports centre was quiet this morning, three days after the crush in the popular Itaewon district during Halloween festivities, as a few people sifted through more than 800 recovered lost items.

Five kilometres from the scene of the disaster, the modern sports facility was used in the initial hours to keep the bodies of some of the 156 people crushed to death when a chaotic surge of people poured into a narrow alley late on Saturday.

The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Today, its floor was laid with 256 pairs of shoes, 258 pieces of clothing, 124 bags and 156 electronic items, and other personal belongings, including stuffed animal key chains and festive Halloween masks.

Mobile phones and identification cards were kept separately at a police station.

One survivor of the crush walked through the items looking for her bag, her left leg in a cast from her injury that night. She couldn’t find what she was looking for.

The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

The woman, who declined to give her name, said she and her friend were about to head home when the crowd swelled dangerously and ended up in a large crowd pushing forward into a narrow, sloped alleyway. She got jammed in place near the bottom of the hill.

“I was smothered at the far bottom (of the alley), but I survived because my upper torso wasn’t pressed under,” she said. She said her friend was also rescued.

Police admit to ‘not effectively handling emergency calls’ about impending disaster

06:50 , Namita Singh

South Korea’s police chief admitted “a heavy responsibility” for failing to prevent the crowd surge that killed more than 150 people during Halloween festivities in Seoul, saying this morning that officers didn’t effectively handle earlier emergency calls about the impending disaster.

The admission came as the South Korean government faces growing public scrutiny over whether the crowd surge on Saturday night in Seoul’s Itaewon district, a popular nightlife neighborhood, could have been prevented and who should take responsibility for the country’s worst disaster in years.

People pay tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
People pay tribute to the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

“I feel a heavy responsibility (for the disaster) as the head of one of related government offices,” Yoon Hee Keun, commissioner general of the Korean National Police Agency, told a televised news conference. “Police will do their best to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

Mr Yoon said an initial investigation has found that there were many urgent calls by citizens notifying authorities about the potential danger of a crowd gathering in Itaewon, but officers who had received those calls didn’t respond to them in a satisfactory manner.

Mr Yoon said police have subsequently launched an intense internal probe to look into the officers’ handling of the emergency calls and other issues like their on-the-spot response to the crowd surge in Itaewon that night.

PM says failure over systematic crowd management caused Halloween crush

07:05 , Namita Singh

South Korea’s prime minister Han Duck-soo said the absence of “institutional support” measures for crowd management was one of the causes behind the deadly crush that killed more than 150 party-goers in central Seoul over the weekend.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo pays tribute at memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede,  in front of City Hall on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo pays tribute at memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, in front of City Hall on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Speaking at a news conference, he said the ongoing investigation over the disaster will also cover whether relevant institutions’ on-site responses were adequate.

‘It’s no different from war’: South Korea faces outrage over deadly Halloween crush

07:25 , Namita Singh

The initial shock from a deadly crush among Halloween party-goers in South Korea is turning into public outrage over the government’s planning missteps, as business owners say police were more focused on crime and Covid than crowd safety.

“It’s no different from war,” said Kang Sung-jun, 76, who was mourning the victims at a makeshift altar today. “I think if people with responsibilities had paid more attention to the people’s movements, this kind of accident would not have happened.”

Yoon Hee-keun, chief of the National Police Agency, apologised and pledged to investigate.

People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
People pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

“We confirmed that there were multiple calls to our hotline before the accident which urgently warned of the danger of large crowd gatherings, but our on-site responses to those reports were insufficient,” Mr Yoon told a news conference.

South Korean authorities have a long history of managing large political rallies, but the annual festivities in Itaewon in Seoul did not have a central steering entity.

Business owners in the neighbourhood have said they met with local police officials before the festivities, but officers were mostly focused on curbing drug and sexual abuses and other crimes, as well as the spread of Covid-19.

Oh Seung-jin, a Seoul police official, acknowledged yesterday that authorities did not have a manual on how to respond to large gatherings without an organiser, and had focused on crime prevention.

Interior minister fuels public backlash for his comments over the Halloween stampede

07:45 , Namita Singh

Interior minister Lee Sang-min has fuelled public anger by saying more police and firefighters would not have prevented the disaster, and warning against politically motivated criticism.

Opposition lawmakers slammed Mr Lee’s remarks, urging president Yoon Suk-yeol to sack him.

He issued a statement clarifying he regretted his comment and would focus on finding the cause of the accident.

The deadly crush poses a crucial test for Mr Yoon, who is already struggling with low approval ratings as he tries to fuel a post-Covid economic recovery and deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

A woman holds flowers as she pays tribute at memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, in front of City Hall on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
A woman holds flowers as she pays tribute at memorial altar for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, in front of City Hall on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Botched disaster responses have proven politically fatal for other South Korean leaders, and Mr Yoon took heat in August for his initial handling of flooding around the country.

He reacted relatively quickly to the crush, visiting the scene, launching a task force team to investigate the accident and designating Itaewon as a disaster zone. Today, he called for concrete crowd management measures.

Many South Koreans said they were in shock over how a casual night out had turned deadly.

“I’m devastated. They were going to see their friends for a good time, but instead, their warm hearts disappeared. I am so sad that I can’t even express my sorrow,” Kim Keun-nyeo, 54, said an altar near Seoul city hall.

Australian survivor of Seoul crush blames 'mismanagement’

08:05 , Namita Singh

An Australian survivor of a crowd crush that killed more than 150 partygoers in the South Korean capital of Seoul blamed the huge loss of life on officials’ failure to employ effective crowd controls despite anticipating a massive turnout for the Halloween celebrations.

Nathan Taverniti, 24, said he’s still grappling with emotional shock after one of his friends died during the tragedy on Saturday at the nightlife district of Itaewon.

The crush happened in a narrow, downhill alley running between a dense row of store fronts and the landmark Hamilton Hotel. The path became clogged by a huge and unstoppable wave of partygoers before some of them fell and toppled over one another like dominoes, according to witnesses, before suffocating to death.

Nathan Taverniti, a 24-year-old Australian survivor of a crowd crush that killed more than 150 partygoers in the South Korean capital, speaks during an interview in Seoul, South Korea (AP)
Nathan Taverniti, a 24-year-old Australian survivor of a crowd crush that killed more than 150 partygoers in the South Korean capital, speaks during an interview in Seoul, South Korea (AP)

An estimated 100,000 partygoers flocked to Itaewon for the Halloween celebrations over the weekend, and some experts say it should have been an obvious decision for authorities to temporarily block some of the neighbourhood’s notoriously narrow lanes and hills.

“If the government knows that there were going to be that many people there, and there is going to be road blockages, there should be enough police and emergency services already there on standby,” Mr Taverniti said.

After tragic crush, lost shoes await owners at Seoul gym

08:25 , Namita Singh

Days after more than 150 Halloween revelers died in South Korea’s deadliest crowd surge, a quiet but wrenching reminder of the disaster remained on Tuesday: Hundreds of abandoned shoes have been laid out in neat rows in a badminton court in the capital Seoul.

Police have assembled the crumpled tennis shoes, loafers and Chuck Taylors — part of 1.5 tons of personal objects left by victims and survivors of the tragedy — in hopes that the owners, or their friends and family, will retrieve them.

The deadly crush in the nearby nightlife district Itaewon happened after tens of thousands gathered for Halloween celebrations Saturday evening. Part of the crowd got jammed in a narrow, downhill alley between a dense row of storefronts and the district’s landmark Hamilton Hotel. Partygoers were seen carrying out the wounded and dead, while dozens of lifeless bodies covered in blankets were laid out in rows on the nearby pavement.

The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
The belongings of victims of the deadly Halloween celebration stampede are shown at a gym on 1 November 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

Most of the victims were women and many of them were missing shoes, which experts say reflects the force of a crowd surge that stripped footwear from their feet in the crush.

Some 250 pairs of shoes at the gym are part of a huge collection of abandoned items found in Itaewon following the tragedy. There are also hundreds of pieces of clothing, including coats and movie character costumes, as well as handbags, smartphones, Bluetooth earpieces and a few passports, including at least one belonging to a US citizen.

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed over 156 unfolded in real time

08:45 , Namita Singh

South Korea is in a one-week shock mourning after the country’s citizens witnessed one of the worst disasters that happened overnight in years and caused the deaths of 156 people and leaving almost as many injured.

A night that was supposed to be a stress-free celebration of Halloween after two years of pandemic restrictions in the streets of Seoul led instead to a massive pile-up that prompted the country’s prime minister Han Duck-soo to announce a stringent probe into the night’s events.

The crush happened when a massive 100,000-plus crowd of revellers on Saturday flocked for festivities in the district of Itaewon in Seoul – a metropolis known for its tough living conditions and punishing, cramped living and public spaces for its residents.

Read the details in this report from my colleague Maroosha Muzaffar:

How Seoul Halloween crush that killed 154 and injured 149 unfolded in real time

Victim’s family issues statement over Seoul Halloween crush

09:05 , Namita Singh

The family of 23-year-old Australian Grace Rached have spoken about her death in the horrifying Halloween crowd surge in Seoul.

Remembering her as a “gorgeous angel” who “lit up a room with her infectious smile,” the family in statement said: “Grace always cared about others and she was loved by all.”

“Grace always made others feel important and her kindness left an impression on everyone she ever met.”

Rached was with her friends, including Nathan Taverniti, who took to TikTok to share how people filmed, sang and laughed “while his friends were dying”.

Five friends went for Halloween, two survived

09:25 , Namita Singh

James Sim, 28, had organised to go to the Itaewon Halloween celebrations with his girlfriend and three other friends.

But by the end of the day, only two of the group of five friends returned alive. Sim and his girlfriend were not among them. They are two of the 156 people who died in the crowd crush on Saturday.

“He was always the organiser, as he loved nights out with his friends,” his mother tells BBC News. The family started to get worked up, when they found their son’s bed empty late at night.

A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
A woman pays tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

As his father tried to reach him on the phone, the police answered, breaking the news that James, his girlfriend and their friend Yoon did not make it out alive.

He was getting serious in his relationship, and would have gotten married soon if they had survived, his father says.

“James was the best older brother,” he says, tearing. “How is my younger son going to cope without him?”

Seoul's Halloween victims primarily women, young people

09:50 , Namita Singh

The narrow street in Seoul’s popular Itaewon neighbourhood was already packed with people celebrating Halloween as high school student Eunseo Kim and her friend pushed themselves into the crowd. Lines of people waiting for their faces to be painted or to get into restaurants slowed the flow of revellers walking through the party zone in South Korea’s capital.

As the 17-year-old slowly worked her way up the narrow alley on a hill, the crowd became increasingly compressed.

“Women were repeatedly saying ‘please don’t push,’ as men were saying ‘push, push,’” she recalled. She began struggling to breathe as her chest was crushed.

Then she lost her balance and fell.

Monks pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)
Monks pay tribute for the victims of the Halloween celebration stampede, on the street near the scene on 31 October 2022 in Seoul, South Korea (Getty Images)

On the ground, Kim felt like she had become invisible to the crowd. People stepped on her ankle, wrist and calf, and she remembers thinking she was going to die.

Incredibly, she survived, but at least 156 others were killed in the crush Saturday night, 101 of them women, primarily in their teens or 20s, according to figures released today by the Interior and Safety Ministry.

Choi Sukjae, an emergency medicine specialist and public relations director of the Korean Emergency Medical Association, says the fact that women are on average smaller than men can make them more vulnerable in crowd crush situations.

“Five to 10cm in height makes a big difference when it comes to chest pressure,” said Dr Sukjae.

At about 172cm (5’ 8”), Kim is taller than many other women in South Korea but still vividly recalls having the breath crushed out of her as people stuck their elbows out protectively and pushed into her chest.

“People were pressing me from both ways; my chest was compressed,” she said.

Seoul mayor offers public apology for Halloween stampede

10:38 , Namita Singh

Seoul mayor Oh Se-hoon offered a tearful public apology today as the death toll rose to 156.

The mayor wept and briefly halted his news conference as he talked about the parent of a 20-year-old woman who was declared dead earlier in the day.

“When I tried to comfort a person with a daughter hospitalised at the National Medical Center yesterday, they said their daughter would survive and they believed so,” he said. “But I heard she passed away this morning. I am sorry that my apology has come late.”

Interior minister also apologises over crowd crush

11:03 , Namita Singh

In a bid to calm public outrage over the Halloween crowd crush, South Korea’s interior minister Lee Sang-min also apologised on Tuesday and vowed to find out the cause of the incident to prevent similar cases from recurring.

“As the minister overseeing the safety of the public, I express sincere apologies over the incident,” Mr Lee said, adding that the government had “limitless responsibility over the safety of our people” as he addressed a parliamentary session televised live.

He has come under sharp public criticism after saying that deploying more police would not have prevented the disaster.

Mourners pay tributes at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
Mourners pay tributes at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Footage shows scale of crowd before Seoul Halloween stampede tragedy

11:10 , Namita Singh

Footage shared shortly before a deadly stampede in Seoul shows the scale of crowds that gathered in the area of Itaewon, where over 150 were killed.

Thousands of people can be seen in the narrow alley, as revellers gathered to celebrate Halloween and the crowd also spills out to the road, packing the pavement with even more bodies.

Footage shows scale of crowd before Seoul Halloween stampede tragedy

K-pop stars cancel appearances amid national mourning for Seoul stampede victims

11:18 , Namita Singh

K-pop artists including BTS, Stray Kids and Aespa have announced postponements of planned public appearances following a stampede in Seoul that killed over 150 people.

Fan events, live streams, video premieres, streaming parties and photo reveals have also been cancelled following the incident.

More here:

K-pop stars cancel appearances amid national mourning for Seoul stampede victims

ICYMI: South Korea vows tough action, moving to quell anger over Halloween crush

11:40 , Namita Singh

South Korea moved to calm public outrage on Tuesday over a Halloween party crush that killed more than 150 people, most of them young, promising a speedy and intensive inquiry and calling for tough new safety measures to prevent similar disasters.

The death toll from the crush at a crowded Halloween street party on Saturday climbed to 156 with 151 injured, 29 of whom were in serious condition. At least 26 citizens from 14 foreign countries were among the dead.

Tens of thousands of revellers - many in their teens and twenties and dressed in costume - had crowded into narrow streets and alleyways of the popular Itaewon district for the first virtually unrestricted Halloween festivities in three years.

South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo speaks during a media briefing on the fatal Halloween crowd surge that killed over 150 people, at Korea’s Culture and Information Service Center in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo speaks during a media briefing on the fatal Halloween crowd surge that killed over 150 people, at Korea’s Culture and Information Service Center in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Prime minister Han Duck-soo said the ongoing investigation would cover whether government agencies’ on-site responses were adequate. He pointed to inadequate institutional measures for crowd management as a cause of the deadly surge.

President calls for improved crowd control measures

12:00 , Namita Singh

President Yoon Suk-yeol has declared a week of national mourning over the Halloween stampede, saying the country had too many safety disasters. He said better responses were critical, including improved crowd control.

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol speaks with prime minister Han Duck-soo (centre R) as they visit a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol speaks with prime minister Han Duck-soo (centre R) as they visit a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

“We should come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowds, not only on these streets where this massive disaster took place but at other places like stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather,” he said at a cabinet meeting.

South Korea police admits ‘heavy responsibility’ in Halloween tragedy

12:13 , Namita Singh

South Korean official admitted responsibility and apologised on Tuesday for failures in preventing and responding to a Halloween crowd surge that killed more than 150 people and left citizens shocked and angry.

National police chief Yoon Hee Keun said an initial investigation found there were many urgent calls from citizens notifying authorities about the potential danger of the crowd gathering in Itaewon. He said police officers who received the calls failed to handle them effectively.

Police stand guard at the cordoned scene of the deadly Halloween crowd surge in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
Police stand guard at the cordoned scene of the deadly Halloween crowd surge in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

“I feel a heavy responsibility (for the disaster) as the head of one of the related government offices,” he said in a televised news conference.

“Police will do their best to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

Mr Yoon said police have launched an intense internal probe into the officers’ handling of the emergency calls and other issues, such as the on-the-spot response to the crowd surge in Itaewon that night.

ICYMI: Interior minister and Seoul’s mayor apologise over Halloween crush

12:30 , Namita Singh

South Korea’s interior minister and Seoul mayor apologised on Tuesday, vowing to find out the cause of the incident and prevent similar cases from recurring.

“As the minister overseeing the safety of the public, I express sincere apologies over the incident,” Lee Sang-min said, adding that the government had “limitless responsibility over the safety of our people” as he addressed a parliamentary session televised live.

He has come under sharp public criticism after saying that deploying more police would not have prevented the disaster.

Messages from mourners are pictured at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
Messages from mourners are pictured at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the deadly Halloween crowd surge, outside a subway station in the district of Itaewon in Seoul on 1 November 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Mayor Oh Se-hoon also tearfully apologised during a media briefing and said the city government would put all available administrative resources “until every citizen can return to their normal lives”.

National police commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun earlier on Tuesday acknowledged crowd control at the scene was “inadequate,” noting that police had received multiple reports warning of possible accidents on the night of the disaster.

“The police will speedily and rigorously conduct intensive inspections and investigation on all aspects without exception to explain the truth of this accident,” Yoon told a news conference.

Seoul’s Halloween victims primarily women

12:45 , Namita Singh

The narrow street in Seoul‘s popular Itaewon neighborhood was already packed with people celebrating Halloween as high school student Eunseo Kim and her friend pushed themselves into the crowd.

Then she lost her balance and fell.

On the ground, Kim felt like she had become invisible to the crowd. People stepped on her ankle, wrist and calf, and she remembers thinking she was going to die.

Incredibly, she survived, but at least 156 others were killed in the crush Saturday night, 101 of them women, primarily in their teens or 20s, according to figures released Tuesday by the Interior and Safety Ministry.

Read more in this report:

Seoul's Halloween victims primarily women, young people

‘Looks like you can get crushed to death’: Emergency call transcripts reveal fears of impending crowd surge

13:13 , Andy Gregory

Police have released transcripts of the 11 emergency calls made in the hours and minutes prior to the disaster, revealing the growing fear of revellers about the dangerous density of the crowds in Itaewon.

The transcripts suggest the first warning of a possible deadly surge was made at 6:34pm – roughly four hours before the crush became deadly – with a citizen saying: “Looks like you can get crushed to death with people keep coming up here while there’s no room for people to go down.

“I barely managed to leave but there are too many people, looks like you should come and control.”

The transcripts appear to confirm the accounts of witnesses, who told Reuters they saw some police directing traffic on the main road but few or no officers in the crowded pedestrian alleyways and side streets.

“People are falling down on the streets, looks like there could be an accident, it looks very dangerous,” another caller said at 8:33pm, according to the police transcript.

The latest call released by the police came at 10:11pm, minutes before people packed into one particularly narrow and sloping alley began to fall over each other. “[People] will get crushed to death here. It’s chaotic,” the transcript of that call says, noting that screams were heard over the phone.

Australian survivor blames disaster on ‘mismanagement'

13:27 , Andy Gregory

An Australian whose friend died in the crowd surge on Saturday has blamed the disaster on Seoul authorities’ failure to employ effective crowd controls.

“If the government knows that there were going to be that many people there, and there is going to be road blockages, there should be enough police and emergency services already there on standby,” said 24-year-old Nathan Taverniti.

Mr Taverniti said he had shouted to nearby bars and clubs to open their doors to let some people in to ease the crowd, but that nobody listened. He said several police officers arrived about half an hour later and people in the crowd helped pull out those who were injured before more officers arrived later.

“I believe 100 per cent that this incident is a result of the government’s mismanagement and the lack of ability because I have known that Halloween event has always been this big in Itaewon,” he said. “This year there was clearly not enough police presence.”

Australian man recounts losing friends in crowd surge

13:47 , Andy Gregory

A man has described surviving the disaster on Saturday in which one of his friends was killed and another two hospitalised.

Nathan Taverniti, a 24-year-old from Australia, said he didn’t sense that something terrible would happen in the vast Itaewon crowd until some women near him apparently slipped and fell, and people nearby tried to help them back up. By that time, he could no longer seen where his three friends were.

“All of a sudden more people started falling, there were just too many people,” he told the Associated Press.

Mr Taverniti recalled trying to grab what he believed were his friends’ hands among the people who were piling up, but having to let go after being crushed himself by the huge weight of other people who were losing their balance.

Around half an hour later, several police officers arrived, and people in the crowd began to help pull out those who were injured, he said.

Mr Taverniti later found one of his friends among the rows of unconscious bodies laid out in the pavement, and was able to locate his two other friends being treated at hospitals. He said he plans to stay in Seoul for a bit longer to ensure their steady recovery.

Nathan Taverniti, 24, describes surviving the crowd crush in Itaewon (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Nathan Taverniti, 24, describes surviving the crowd crush in Itaewon (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Personal items torn from crowd surge victims laid out in Seoul gym

14:25 , Andy Gregory

Police have identified 1.5 tonnes of personal items left behind by victims and survivors of the deadly crowd surge, including pieces of clothing, passports, and smartphones.

Hundreds of pairs of shoes and other objects have been laid out at a gym in Seoul in the hopes that their owners or their friends and family will retrieve them.

Most of the victims were women and many of them were missing shoes, which experts say reflects the force of a crowd surge that stripped footwear from their feet in the crush.

Yongsan police officials, who will keep the gym open for 24 hours until Sunday, didn’t immediately confirm how many of the items have been returned to their owners, the Associated Press reports.

South Korea lacks sufficient research on crowd control measures, president says

14:50 , Andy Gregory

South Korea lacks sufficient research on crowd management, president Yoon Suk Yeol has said.

In remarks at a cabinet council meeting today, the president said the government would meet soon with experts to review national safety rules, and called for the use of drones and other high-tech resources to develop effective crowd control capabilities.

Police monitoring CCTV and social media footage

15:14 , Andy Gregory

Police have obtained footage from some 50 security cameras in the area of the fatal crush and are analysing social media clips, a senior officer has said.

More than 40 witnesses and survivors have so far been interviewed, the officer, Nam Gu-Jun, told reporters on Monday.

Thousands of officers sent to monitor protests elsewhere hours before fatal crush

15:35 , Andy Gregory

Earlier on Saturday, police are reported to have sent at least 7,000 officers to a separate part of Seoul to monitor anti-government protests.

This contrasts with the 137 officers who were sent to Itaewon on Saturday, primarily to monitor crime – particularly illicit drug use – rather than crowd control.

In the three years prior to the pandemic, between 34 and 90 officers were sent to monitor Halloween festivities in Itaewon each year.

Police have also said they have no specific procedures for handling incidents such as crowd surges during an event that has no official organisers, which festivities in Itaewon did not.