People began to ‘fall like dominoes’ around 10:30pm during a fatal crush at the Halloween festival in Itaewon, where a 100,000-strong crowd had gathered in narrow streets.
Dozens reportedly suffered cardiac arrests and the current death toll stands at 153, including at least 19 foreign nationals, with many of the victims being women in their 20s.
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a week of national mourning and after visiting the site earlier today and said that the deadly stampede ‘should not have happened’.
‘In the centre of Seoul, a tragedy and disaster occurred that should not have happened,’ Yoon said in a national address, vowing to ‘thoroughly investigate’ the incident and ensure it could never happen again.
Reports from last night also detail how some revellers continued to party in the neighbourhood after the crush – despite desperate pleas from the police to go home.
The fire department requested that the Halloween festival be suspended at 11:19 pm, nearly an hour after the first report of the crowd crush.
But partygoers continued to drink and enjoyed the Halloween festival late into the night, The Hankyoreh reported crowds in costumes were busy taking pictures in alleys near the accident site and that most bars were full.
An ambulance moving to the accident site was reportedly blocked by crowds of people while the police were heard using a loudspeaker saying: ‘Please go home. That’s what helps us. Please disband.’
South Korea has declared a week of national mourning after more than 150 people died in a crowd crush at a street Halloween festival in the capital Seoul (pictured: A woman places a bouquet of flowers to pay tribute for victims near the scene)
One witness said that the streets in Itaewon were ‘total chaos’ and that people in the crowd began to ‘fall like dominoes’
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol said the crowd crush ‘should not have happened’ and that he will investigate the incident thoroughly
South Korean national flags are being flown at half-mast as the nation enters a week-long period of national mourning
Left: The alleyway is seen early on Sunday morning. It remained cordoned off as police continued their investigations into the tragedy. Right: The same alleyway is seen shortly before the crush. Hundreds of people are shown packed in
A man writes a funeral ode for victims at the scene of the October 29 Halloween stampede – one of South Korea’s worst peacetime accidents
Somber crowds of people have been gathering at the police cordon surrounding the scene to look at the streets where the Halloween stampede occurred
The streets were so densely packed emergency workers were unable to reach or treat the huge number of patients quickly – so much so that paramedics were forced to ask pedestrians to perform CPR.
Emergency officials and doctors who later treated them in hospitals said most of the victims died of cardiac arrest as a result of asphyxiation, due to pressure from being trapped under other bodies.
One witness told the Hankook Ilbo that the streets were a scene of ‘total chaos’, he said: ‘After some people slipped and fell, others fell like dominoes and no one seemed to be able to crawl out of it.’
President Yoon expressed condolences to the victims, mostly teenagers and people in their 20s, and his wishes for a speedy recovery to the many injured in one of the South Korea’s worst disasters and the world’s worst stampedes in decades.
‘This is truly tragic,’ he said in a statement. ‘A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul last night.’
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said: ‘Following the president’s directive, the government has decided to observe a national mourning period until midnight of November 5, during which the nation will mourn the perished.’
A joint altar for the victims will be set up at a location in Seoul that has yet to be decided, he added.
During the period, all government offices and overseas missions will lower their flags to half-mast and cancel or postpone nonessential public events.
Civil servants and employees of public institutions will wear ribbons to express their condolences, officials explained.
South Korea’s South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol (front 2nd L) visited the scene of the Halloween stampede this morning
Emergency workers urgently tried to extricate those most in need of medical assistance from the crowd
South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol (centre) attends an emergency meeting after the tragic crowd crush in Seoul
Those caught in the crush were left shocked, checking their phones to try and contact missing loved ones or hugging one another
The incident on Saturday night led to 140 ambulances being deployed to help treat and evacuate the injured
According to local emergency responders, many of the victims were women in their 20s, and most were teenagers or in their early twenties. A makeshift morgue was set up in an adjacent building due to the sheer number of fatalities.
Officials added it was believed that people were crushed to death after a large crowd began pushing forward in a narrow alley near Hamilton Hotel, a major party spot in Seoul, upon hearing rumours a celebrity was nearby.
Dozens of people were given CPR on Itaewon’s streets while many others have been taken to nearby hospitals.
One witness described the height of the crush: ‘People were layered on top of others like a tomb. Some were gradually losing their consciousness while some looked dead by that point.’
Photographs and videos on social media show horrific scenes of panic in the aftermath of the crush, and people’s desperate efforts to escape from the building tragedy.
One particularly distressing video showed dozens of people struggling to breathe and stay on their feet in the crowd as rescue workers attempted to extricate those most in need of medical assistance from the throng.
More than 1,700 emergency workers were deployed from across South Korea to respond to one of the deadliest crowd crushes in recent history. More footage overlooking the street showed dozens of emergency responders working desperately to administer CPR to victims lying on the street.
The scale of the emergency response in Seoul has seen emergency workers called from across the country, including 140 ambulances
Revelers dressed in Halloween costumes are seen leaving the scene after a crush killed at least 153 people in Seoul
Rescue workers and firefighters try to help injured people near the scene in Seoul, South Korea
Investigators expect the scene and leftover debris in the narrow alley in Itaewon in the early hours of Sunday morning local time
One man was pictured climbing an almost flat wall high above the crowd to escape the panic beneath him.
Video on social media showed dozens of motionless figures lying on the ground in the aftermath of the incident while dozens more emergency workers and members of the public worked intensely around them.
Most of the figures were being given CPR and are thought to have had cardiac arrests.
The deadly incident occurred when the densely packed crowd surged into a narrow alleyway.
Social media footage showed hundreds of people packed in the sloped alley, crushed and immobile as emergency officials and police tried to pull them to free.
A Reuters witness said a make-shift morgue was set up in a building adjacent to the scene. About four dozen bodies were carried out later on wheeled stretchers and moved to a government facility to identify the victims, according to the witness.
Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department, said the death toll could rise as emergency workers were continuing to transport the injured to hospitals across Seoul following the stampede in the leisure district of Itaewon on Saturday night.
As well as the 1,700-strong emergency worker response, 15 ‘disaster’ medical teams were also deployed from around South Korea to help in the aftermath of the crush.
But emergency services were initially vastly overstretched and overwhelmed, resulting in dozens of passers-by and eyewitnesses trying to assist those injured and dying.
Reports from local media suggest Seoul has set up a roster for those worried about loved ones to find information.