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Halloween Gone Wrong in Seoul Stampede

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At least 150 deaths have been reported after a crowd crush in South Korea’s Itaewon on Saturday, October 29.

On the night in question, as many as 100,000 individuals, many of whom were in their teens and early 20s, stepped out onto the streets of Itaewon, Seoul, to celebrate Halloween. This was one of the first large-scale celebrations in Seoul since the recent Covid-19 restrictions had been lifted. 

How The Crowd Rush Happened

As the crowds made their way through the narrow, and sloping streets, at around 10:15 pm, emergency services received their first call for assistance. Witnesses reported that large crowds surging in and around a narrow side street close to Itaewon station may have led to some people losing their footing on the sloping roads, causing many others to fall around them, too. As the tragic events of the evening unfolded, over 1,700 emergency responders, including firefighters, police officers, and about 70 government officials were dispatched to the area. 

As Halloween partygoers flood the streets around Itaewon, some reported that as the crowds swelled, the movement became impossible. While large crowds are not a usual occurrence in the area, witnesses shared that there was hardly any crowd control that fateful evening. With blaring music from the surrounding bars and clubs, many were unaware of the panicked cries for help that had erupted from the crowds. Adding to the confusion of the evening, as many were dressed in Halloween costumes, they were unable to differentiate fellow partygoers from legitimate law enforcement officers that had been dispatched to assist with the situation. 

How To Make It Through A Crowd Crush 

  • Remain Upright 

Trying your best to maintain your balance and to stay upright will help to avoid a ‘domino effect’ of everyone falling over and taking others down with them. Due to the large crowds, in the event of a fall, the individual might no longer be able to get up.

  • Take slow controlled breaths and remain calm 

Pay attention to your breaths, ensuring you take slow and controlled breaths to avoid panic or asphyxiation.  

  • Stay aware and help others 

Unity in a crowd can ensure the safety of all, make sure you help others, and avoid tripping or pushing anyone until you can get past the crowd.

  • Go with the flow of the crowd 

Resisting the flow of the crowd or attempting to push through it might cause more harm than good. Let yourself and everyone around you move with the general flow of the crowd until you reach a wider, more open space. 

Victims Included Foreign Nationals

As the first large-scale social gathering in over two years, both locals and international travellers had made their way to the area for the Halloween festivities. Amongst the 154 deceased, some 26 have been identified as foreign nationals, including those from Australia, Austria, China, France, Iran, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. All but one individual has been identified, according to South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Monday. The victims also included 6 local schoolchildren and three teachers. The number of injured individuals has risen to about 140 people, with at least 37 with serious injuries.

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