At least 59 people were killed and 150 more were injured after being crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the capital Seoul, South Korean officials said.
Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department, said the death toll could grow as emergency workers were continuing to transport the injured to hospitals across Seoul following the stampede in the leisure district of Itaewon Saturday night.
Choi said 13 of the dead have been sent to hospitals while the bodies of the remaining 46 were still on the streets.
Officials say 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.
Officials from the National Fire Agency and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety earlier said about 100 were injured and around 50 were being treated for cardiac arrest as of early Sunday.
More than 400 emergency workers and 140 vehicles from around the nation, including all available personnel in Seoul, were deployed to the streets to treat the injured.
The National Fire Agency separately said in a statement that officials were still trying to determine the exact number of emergency patients.
TV footage and photos from the scene showed ambulance vehicles lined up in streets amid a heavy police presence and emergency workers moving the injured in stretchers. Emergency workers and pedestrians were also seen performing CPR on people lying in the streets.
In one section, paramedics were seen checking that status of a dozen or more people who lied motionless under blue blankets.
Police, which were restricting traffic in nearby areas to speed up the transportation of the injured to hospitals across the city, also confirmed that dozens of people were being given CPR on Itaewon streets. The Seoul Metropolitan Government issued emergency text messages urging people in the area to swiftly return home.
A local police officer said he was also informed that a stampede occurred on Itaewon’s streets where a crowd of people gathered for Halloween festivities. The officer requested anonymity, saying the details of the incident was still under investigation.
Some local media reports earlier said the crush happened after a large number of people rushed to an Itaewon bar after hearing an unidentified celebrity visited there.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement calling for officials to ensure swift treatment for those injured and review the safety of the festivity sites. He also instructed the Health Ministry to swiftly deploy disaster medical assistance teams and secure beds in nearby hospital to treat the injured.
A spokesperson for his office said the president was presiding over an emergency meeting at the presidential office’s crisis management center early Sunday morning local time.
The Itaewon Fire Station official said in an earlier televised briefing that 21 people were confirmed to have suffered cardiac arrest.
Local media said around 100,000 people flocked to Itaewon streets for the Halloween festivities, which were the biggest since the start of the pandemic following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in recent months.