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Grief, prayers and anger at South Korea crowd crush memorial

SEOUL: Wiping away tears, Music Jung-hee laid a single white chrysanthemum at a memorial for the 154 victims of a deadly crowd crush in South Korea.
What was purported to be a Saturday night time of post-pandemic celebration in Seoul’s well-liked Itaewon nightlife district become considered one of South Korea’s deadliest catastrophe.
With tens of hundreds of individuals crammed right into a slim alleyway — and police and crowd management measures nowhere in sight — eye-witnesses have described how partygoers turned trapped, crushed and suffocated in a human surge.
“I want we might have protected them,” 69-year-old Music informed AFP, as she wiped her eyes with a handkerchief.
“I really feel responsible — we now have let the younger individuals down.”
Round Music on the altar arrange in central Seoul had been mourners in numerous states of misery. Many sobbed as they positioned a flower down, with some in workplace fits — coming to pay their respects throughout their lunch break — queuing for his or her flip.
“I cried all night time for the poor younger individuals we misplaced. They had been so younger, within the prime of their life,” mentioned 71-year-old Park Solar-ja, whose eyes had been uncooked and swollen behind sun shades.
“It’s such a loss for our nation,” she informed AFP.
The youngest of the victims had been schoolchildren, South Korea’s training ministry confirmed Monday, however most had been younger ladies of their 20s.
“The victims had been younger. I am an identical age and I am simply devastated by what occurred,” 19-year-old pupil Hwang Gyu-hyeon informed AFP.
“I am unable to consider this accident occurred regardless of the indicators that had been clear beforehand,” she mentioned. “Nothing was achieved to organize for this crowd.”
– ‘This may not have occurred’ – There may be rising criticism in media and on-line over failures in policing and crowd management on the Halloween occasion. The federal government has defended the extent of police deployment.
However many mourners on the memorial altar laid the blame squarely on the authorities and the shortage of crowd management measures.
“If solely there had been extra law enforcement officials to maintain order, this is able to not have occurred,” Music mentioned angrily.
The 154 victims included individuals from greater than a dozen totally different nations, from Australia to Vietnam.
Japanese businesswoman Chi Naomi, 46, mentioned the loss of life of two of her compatriots had introduced the catastrophe house for her.
“It would not really feel like another person’s tragedy,” she mentioned, including that in Japan, younger individuals additionally loved Halloween celebrations, however authorities made positive they had been secure.
“I ponder why there wasn’t correct management in Itaewon on that day,” she mentioned.
“I have been to the positioning myself, and it’s such a small alley. They might have taken so many steps, like making the alley a one-way or limiting the variety of individuals there. I do not perceive why these steps weren’t taken.”
At a second official memorial in Noksapyeong, close to Seoul’s new authorities workplaces, a gaggle of policemen got here to pay tribute to the victims, many wanting visibly moved as they laid white flowers on the altar.
Carrying yellow jackets, a gaggle of households linked to South Korea’s 2014 Sewol ferry catastrophe, through which 304 individuals — principally schoolchildren — died, additionally got here to the Noksapyeong memorial to pay their respects, weeping as they laid flowers on the altar.
– ‘Simply an excessive amount of’ – At a makeshift memorial near the slim, three-meter-wide (10 ft) alleyway on the epicenter of the catastrophe, Buddhist monks chanted prayers for the lifeless.
Mates hugged and comforted one another whereas they added their flowers and different tributes to the rising pile on the scene, which quickly took up a lot of the sidewalk.
British vacationer Robyn Lindsay informed AFP that she and her pals had been on the Itaewon Halloween occasion on Saturday night time.
“However we left earlier than it received too loopy as a result of it was simply an excessive amount of,” she mentioned, including that they managed to get out and head house earlier than the catastrophe.
“We had been very, very fortunate,” Lindsay mentioned, wiping away tears as she paid her respects on the street-side shrine. “We’re simply fascinated about all of the victims and their households.”

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