At least 59 people died and 150 more were injured after being crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the capital city of 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.
Choi said 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.
He said 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.
Officials didn’t immediately release a death toll, as they usually don’t until the deaths are confirmed at hospitals. The National Fire Agency 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. Multiple people, apparently among those injured, were seen covered in yellow blankets.
Photographs published by Yonhap appeared to show more than a dozen people lying prone on a street that had been cordoned off by authorities, with rescue workers tending to some of them.
Police also confirmed that dozens of people were being given CPR on Itaewon streets while many others have been taken to nearby hospitals.
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 were 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.
Local media said around 100,000 people flocked to Itaewon streets for the Halloween festivities, which were the biggest in years following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in recent months.
AFP contributed to this report.