South Korea begins probe into deadly Halloween crush

  • Death toll rises to 154, 149 injured
  • The government has promised a thorough investigation
  • Residents, officials offer condolences at memorials
  • It is South Korea’s worst disaster since the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking

SEOUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) – South Korean investigators on Monday collected footage from more than 50 state and private closed-circuit TV cameras and social media in a search for answers to how a surge at a Halloween party killed people trapped in narrow alleyways. a lot

The death toll rose to 154 as the country began a week of mourning. Another 149 people were injured, 33 of them in critical condition. The dead included citizens of at least two dozen countries.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duk-soo has promised a thorough investigation and said authorities are focused on reconstructing the chain of events leading to the outbreak and looking into whether anyone may have been responsible for inciting the outbreak.

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“We are analyzing the CCTVs to find out the exact cause of the accident,” police chief investigator Nam Gu-jun told reporters.

“We will continue to interrogate more witnesses, including employees of a nearby store,” he said.

Tens of thousands of people – teenagers and twenty-somethings and dressed in costumes – crowded the narrow streets and alleys of the popular Itaewon district on Saturday for the first virtually unrestricted Halloween festivities in three years.

But chaos erupted when people poured into one particularly narrow and sloping alley, even after it was already full, witnesses said.

Hahn said the identification of the victims was almost complete and funeral preparations could continue. “We will do our best to provide the necessary support by reflecting the views of bereaved families as much as possible.”

A man pays his respects near the scene of a stampede during Halloween on October 30, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-ji

On Monday, people placed white chrysanthemums, drinks and candles at a small makeshift altar at the exit of Itaewon subway station.

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Jung Si-hoon, who retired, placed an old wooden cross at the altar, saying that nothing could be done to bring back all the dead youth.

“Those poor people, who are the same age as my grandchildren… what else can we say? We must pray for them and may they rest in peace,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, dozens of crime scene investigators and forensics officers descended on the trash-strewn sidewalks, which were eerily quiet with many shops and cafes closed.

An agent with the National Forensic Service team, in white overalls and a black mourning ribbon pinned to his chest, operated a Leica 3D scanner, he said, “to capture the scene.”

President Yoon Suk-yeol, who designated Itaewon as a disaster zone, visited a memorial altar near Seoul City Hall on Monday to pay his respects to the victims.

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Schools, kindergartens and companies across the country canceled planned Halloween events. K-pop concerts and government briefings have also been cancelled.

The crush came as Itaewon was starting to thrive again after more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions. The disaster is the country’s deadliest since the 2014 ferry capsizing that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.

Hahn said there have been incidents of people promoting hate speech by blaming the victims, as well as the spread of false information and disturbing footage of the crush being posted online. A National Police Agency official said that six related cases are being investigated.

Reporting by Soo-Hang Choi and Ju-Min Park; Additional reporting by Chunsik Yoo and Joyce Lee; Writing by Lincoln Feist and Jack Kim; Edited by Gerry Doyle, Edmund Claman and Edwina Gibbs

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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