Itaewon Halloween disaster: 146 dead, 150 more injured as Seoul’s bustling district turns dangerous

Death toll at 146, injured people count at 150 at the Itaewon stampede. Authorities expect toll to rise. (Image via Yonhap/The Korea Times)
Death toll at 146, injured people count at 150 at the Itaewon stampede. Authorities expect toll to rise. (Image via Yonhap/The Korea Times)

The bustling district of Itaewon in Seoul turned into a Halloween disaster after at least 146 people were confirmed dead and 150 more were injured due to a massive crowd rush on Saturday night, October 29 KST. The numbers were confirmed by fire officials at around 4 am KST on Sunday, October 30, 2022.

Update as of 9:40 am KST: As per The Korea Herald, the death toll increased to 151 while 82 people were injured. Among the deceased, 19 people were identified as foreign nationals.

Trigger warning: Disturbing images, mentions of death.

Halloween celebrations were scheduled to take place in full swing in the entertainment district for the Halloween weekend. Several images and videos spread on social media showcasing the grueling conditions and overcrowding on the streets. In the pictures and as per the audience accounts, it was jam-packed with people and there was no space for walking.

ja pierdole taki tłum był w itaewon

Authorities initially reported nearly 50 people getting cardiac arrests. Pictures going viral on Twitter also show bodies laid down on the streets.

Itaewon goes from an enthusiastic Halloween celebration to a deadly disaster

Itaewon, a district in central Seoul, is known for its hustle-bustle. Halloween preparations and celebrations saw the district open after being closed for the last couple of years due to the pandemic.

Nearly 100,000 people were reported to have attended the weekend celebration. It was also reported that the enthusiastic people joined the group without any COVID-19 precautions.

A disaster is happening in Itaewon at the moment. Praying everyone is safe. Dozens of people lying lifeless on the floor receiving CPR from rescue services.

According to The Korea Herald, 346 firefighters were mobilized along with 142 ambulances to deal with the Halloween crowd rush aftermath. As mentioned earlier, the latest reports as per 4 am KST on Sunday, October 30, 2022, list 146 dead and 150 injured.

Although authorities shared that identification of the deceased will take time, they said that the majority of the deceased are people in their 20s.

We tried to go to itaewon tonight but it was so crowded it became dangerous. I got pinned into a ledge at one point and hurt my knee. A guy pulled me out thankfully. I was crying. It was terrifying. The crowd was pushing so hard and there was no where to go. Like astroworld

At 11:30 pm on Saturday night, fire authorities began receiving phone calls from people experiencing breathing difficulties. Phone calls were tallied to 81.

Around 400 rescue workers were dispatched. In a video going viral on Twitter, rescue workers can be seen conducting emergency CPR on dozens of people lying on the street near the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon.

truly the scariest halloween of my life—30 down, 400 rescue workers deployed. please avoid itaewon and stay safe. #이태원사고

President Yoon Suk-yeol asked the ministers to “make every effort to promptly provide aid to the victims.” He also instructed officials to keep safety measures in check in case any emergency arises due to Halloween celebrations across the country.

Raphael Rashid, a Seoul-based journalist, shared his experience of finding Itaewon “the most packed” after restrictions were lifted.

Tonight is Halloween night. It's one of the most (if not the most) popular nightlife event of the year. But especially this year, with almost all Covid restrictions lifted, people have been desperate to go out finally. Itaewon was the most packed I've ever seen.

The Seoul city government also sent emergency safety alerts asking people to go home. Several venues have also started closing down, reported Hyunsu Yim, a writer at The Korea Herald.

Seoul city government telling people in Itaewon to go home via an emergency alert as some venues are closing early.

Additionally, many partygoers and venues were criticized for their lack of empathy. Twitter users spread videos of people singing and dancing without leaving any space for the ambulances with victims to pass. In other videos, venues can be heard blasting music without any heed to the grievous situation outside.

Shameful footage emerging on social media of drunk partygoers dancing and singing in front of emergency services trying to respond to the Itaewon disaster. Absolute chaos and revolting behaviour.
In #itaewon right now. Weird energy. Tons of firetrucks and ambulances lined up, but then most bars etc are still blasting music as if this scary thing didn't just happen an hour ago. #itaewonstampede
they gon continue to party like the viIe people they are while there are people having difficulty breathing fighting for their lives and medics and fire officers working hard to revive others and in front of the deceased… fckin sick…

Meanwhile, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who was on a visit to Europe, is reportedly returning home after hearing about Itaewon’s Halloween disaster.

Itaewon Street is completely jam-packed with no moving traffic as more emergency vehicles try to reach the incident location.

According to officials, the death toll is expected to rise.

Note: As this is still a developing story, more details are expected to emerge.

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Edited by Madhur Dave
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