At least 149 people died and 150 were injured in a stampede at a prominent market in South Korea's capital Seoul, where a massive crowd had gathered for Halloween festivities, officials said.
Police and firemen were seen trying to revive people who'd gone into cardiac arrest amid chaos in narrow streets. The crowd, estimated to be around 1 lakh, had gathered on Saturday night in Itaewon, a central district of the megacity which has hundreds of shops and party places, local news outlets said.
충격주의)현재 이태원 압사 사망자 발생했다는듯 pic.twitter.com/ExGTyJQQN9— 이것저것 소식들 (@feedforyou11) October 29, 2022
Excitement was heightened in the run-up to October 31, the first Halloween after two years of muted celebrations due to Covid restrictions.
It was just before midnight local time that dozens of people fell unconscious near a hotel, reported The Korea Herald. Fire authorities said they received the first report regarding breathing difficulties around 10.30, said the report. The number crossed 100 in about an hour.
Common people also attempted resuscitation — by pressing the chest to revive the heart — in videos that showed the scenes of panic.
The first deaths were reported over two hours later by news agencies PTI and AFP, quoting officials. The number went from initially reported nine to 59 and then 149, by 8 am.
The injured include many women in their 20s, local media reports said.
A fire department official told news agency AFP that more than 140 ambulances had been dispatched to the scene.
Hyunsu Yim, a journalist with The Korea Herald, tweeted: "Absolute scenes of chaos in Itaewon right now as the Halloween night has turned into a major safety hazard with at least several party-goers being carried into ambulances." He shared two photos, too.
Absolute scenes of chaos in Itaewon right now as the Halloween night has turned into a major safety hazard with at least several party-goers being carried into ambulances. pic.twitter.com/JqVpbYiFrv— Hyunsu Yim (@hyunsuinseoul) October 29, 2022
He added: "I'm seeing pictures that I don't think is wise to share here but they are heartbreaking... What's certain now is tonight is going to go down as one of the most terrible and sad nights for Halloween in this country."
Before the stampede, some Twitter users had been posting warning to people not to come to the area as it was crowded beyond control.
“Don't come to Itaewon. It's death-like here… My arm almost broke,” posted a woman along with videos.
President Yoon Suk-yeol issued a statement through a spokesperson just after the first reports: "All related ministries and agencies, led by the minister of public administration and security, should make every effort to promptly provide aid to the victims."