South Korea probes Halloween crowd surge as nation mourns – | Episode Movies

SEOUL, South Korea – (AP) – South Korean police are investigating what caused a crowd that killed more than 150 people during Halloween celebrations in Seoul last weekend in the country’s worst disasters in years, as President Yoon Suk Yeol and other residents paid their respects to the dead at temporary mourning sites.

Saturday’s deadly crowd occurred on a sloping, narrow alley in Seoul’s Itaewon district, a popular nightlife district. Witnesses and survivors recalled a “hellish” chaos of people falling on top of each other “like dominoes.” They say the entire Itaewon area was extremely crowded with slow-moving vehicles and partygoers in Halloween costumes, making it impossible for rescue workers and ambulances to reach the site in time.

Police deployed a 561-strong task force to deal with the details of the stampede, the Home and Security Department said in a press release.

Officials are analyzing footage captured by surveillance cameras in the area at the time of the clash and related video clips posted to social media. They also interviewed witnesses to find out exactly when and where the stampede began and how it developed, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

According to local media reports, a team of police officers and government forensic experts was to conduct a joint investigation in the Itaewon area.

“The government will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and will do its best to make the necessary improvements to the systems to prevent a similar accident from happening again,” Premier Han Duck-soo said at the start of a government meeting on the disaster.

The Itaewon region, famous for its cosmopolitan vibe, is the country’s hottest spot for Halloween-themed events and parties, which have become increasingly popular among young South Koreans in recent years. An estimated 100,000 people gathered there for the country’s largest Halloween celebrations since the pandemic began.

However, some business owners in Itaewon say even larger numbers of people have gathered there for the Halloween weekend celebrations ahead of the pandemic.

Police said in a statement they deployed 137 officers to help maintain order during Halloween celebrations last Saturday — many more than the 34 to 90 officers mobilized in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Citing the figures, police dismissed as “deviating from the truth” speculation that a police station in the area was understaffed because it provided extra security for Yoon, who was moving the country’s presidential office to a location near Itaewon. The police statement said that police-provided security for a president has long been handled by two special police units, and the units are unrelated to the Yongsan Police Station, which has Itaewon under its jurisdiction.

Some observers say the scope of the police investigation would include an apparent lack of safety measures, as well as examining witness accounts of the stampede being caused by some people intentionally pushing others, bringing them down. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency did not immediately release the details of their investigation.

On Monday morning, the government said it had identified 153 of the 154 dead and informed those left behind of their identification. Almost two-thirds of the dead – 98 – were women. It said 149 others were injured. The death toll could continue to climb as officials said 33 of those injured were in serious condition.

More than 80% of the dead were in their 20s or 30s and 11 were teenagers, the Home Office release said.

26 foreigners were among the dead. Five of them are from Iran; four from China; four from Russia; two from the United States; two from Japan; One each from Australia, Norway, France, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka, according to the Interior Ministry.

As the identification of the dead neared completion, those left behind were expected to begin burials for their loved ones. Officials said the government will provide bereaved families with necessary assistance with funeral procedures.

President Yoon on Sunday declared a week of national mourning and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast at government buildings and public offices.

The government opened temporary memorials in Seoul and other major cities in South Korea on Monday. People ranging from commoners to high-ranking officials, including Yoon, visited the sites, laying white flowers and bowing deeply to show respect. Many people also laid chrysanthemums, bottles of Korean liquor soju, candles and snacks near a subway station in Itaewon, with a multitude of condolences posted on the wall and elsewhere.

The mass flooding was South Korea’s deadliest disaster since 2014, when 304 people, mostly high school students, died in a ferry sinking.

The sinking exposed lax safety rules and regulatory oversights. It has been attributed in part to excessive and poorly fastened cargo and a crew ill-trained for emergency situations. Saturday’s deaths are likely to prompt a public scrutiny of what government officials have been doing to improve public safety standards since the ferry disaster.

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