President Yoon Suk Yeol Condolences In paying homage at dedicated sites in Seoul More than 150 people those who were killed. His government promised a thorough investigation into the disaster, the country’s worst in years.
Tens of thousands of people Gathered Saturday in the capital’s nightlife district of Itaewon – popular with foreigners – a crowd started down a steep and narrow alleyway, causing a deadly panic.
Many of the revelers were in their teens and 20s and dressed in the country’s first costume. Halloween Celebration without Covid restrictions in three years.
The death toll in the disaster has risen to 154 as of Monday morning. including two Americans and 24 foreign nationals. All but one of the dead have been identified, Prime Minister Han Tak-soo said. The number of injured has risen to 149, including 33 in critical condition.
At memorials in the city, mourners left traditional white chrysanthemums and snacks, soft drinks and bottles of beer and Korean liquor soju. In Itaewon, two Buddhist monks chanted and performed rituals throughout the afternoon.
The country’s president, who has ordered a week-long period of national mourning, paid tribute to the victims at a memorial near City Hall. A second monument is erected at a site in Itaewon.
“I am overwhelmed with grief and responsibility as the president who is responsible for the lives and safety of our people,” Yoon said at a gathering before visiting the memorial on Monday. “My heart breaks especially at the tragic loss of the youth, whose dreams will no longer see the light.”
At the meeting, Yoon ordered that the government bear the funeral and medical expenses of the victims. Officials urged the public not to spread misinformation, hate speech or graphic video from the scene as they investigate what exactly happened.
The police said that they have launched a 475-member task force to investigate the crunch. Senior police officer Nam Ku-jun told reporters that the force has obtained videos taken by about 50 security cameras in the area and is also examining video clips posted on social media. They have so far interviewed more than 40 witnesses and survivors, Nam said on Monday.
Witnesses suggested that there was insufficient police presence to control the crowd, which may have been larger than expected.
A senior police official disputed the suggestion, but said officers had failed to foresee the possibility of a deadly crush.
“A huge crowd was expected there. But we don’t expect large-scale casualties due to the large number of people gathering,” Hong Ki-hyun, head of the National Police Agency’s Public Order Management Bureau, told reporters on Monday.
“I was told that the police officers did not detect the sudden upheaval in the crowd,” he said, adding: “I regret the error in judgment call by these officers.”
According to Hong, 137 police officers were deployed in Itaewon on Saturday, compared with 37 to 90 officers in the three years before the epidemic began.
“The focus was on traffic control, crime prevention and illegal activities, not on crowd safety in streets and narrow lanes,” he said. Hong said police have no manual for situations like Halloween festivities, no central organizer, and they will learn from the disaster.
As a team of police officers and government forensic experts search for answers about where the overcrowding began and how it developed, experts said the ultimate issue was the failure to control the number of people allowed into the area.
“There’s a finite number of people who can fit into any space,” Keith Still, professor of crowd science at Suffolk University, told NBC News.
“Once someone moves or tries to leave, once they cross that security threshold, there’s very little they can do. Managing and planning places is all about people,” he said.
Although Halloween is not a traditional holiday in South Korea, Itaewon is known for its costume parties in bars and clubs, which have become popular in recent years.
Soccer coach Kerem Kerimoglu was among the thousands who gathered there on Saturday.
With each passing hour, he said, he grew more concerned that he had not heard back from the two friends who had been separated during the uprising. “I am worried if they die. The government has not shown identity cards to people yet,” he said.
Kerimoglu, 27, lives about a mile from Idavon’s main street. He said he returned to the scene Sunday evening to find dozens of mourners, dressed in black, gathered around a makeshift memorial site and offered white flowers.
“They gave free flowers to everyone. I also took one and put flowers to remember the day,” Kerimoglu said via Instagram, adding that the air smelled like “death”.
“I got goosebumps when I put the flowers on the ground,” she said.
The stampede was the country’s worst peacetime accident 2014 Sewol ferry sinks. 304 people were killed in the accident, mostly young people.
Stella Kim and Thomas Maresca reported from Seoul. Jennifer Jett and Mithil Aggarwal reported from Hong Kong.