The group of partiers, some nonetheless of their teenagers and plenty of clad in Halloween costumes, was able to benefit from the bars, nightclubs and eating places the place the revelry routinely spills over into slim and infrequently steep facet streets.
However the intimacy of Itaewon’s backstreets turned sinister this Halloween weekend.
Twenty-four hours earlier than, there have been already warning indicators that the festivities have been attracting harmful numbers of individuals. On Friday night time, a Reuters witness noticed crowds within the space packed toe-to-toe at a Halloween road honest with cubicles for face-painting and promoting sweet and costumes.
A day later these crowds returned.
Officers say there was nobody organised occasion that drew hundreds of revellers to the cramped alleyways the place so many younger folks, together with not less than 22 foreigners, would die.
However social media posts confirmed nightclubs and bars promoting Halloween occasions and promotions, together with collaborations at among the hottest golf equipment for particular performances.
Officers are nonetheless investigating what prompted the group to surge, however witnesses and social media footage confirmed folks squeezing into the streets for a number of blocks surrounding the alley the place most of the deaths would happen.
Simply earlier than 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT), chaos erupted, with police at instances struggling to regulate the crowds, witnesses mentioned.
Folks poured into one notably slim and sloping alley, even after it was already packed wall-to-wall. Social media footage confirmed some folks attempting to scale the edges of the buildings to flee the growing strain, as others shouted, cried, or cursed.
When these on the high of the slope fell, it despatched folks beneath them toppling over others, witnesses mentioned.
“We arrived round 10 p.m. to go to a membership however then noticed folks falling on the road,” mentioned Moon Ju-young, 21. “Some have been bleeding, others have been crying out in ache.”
One pupil from France, who requested to not be recognized due to the trauma of the occasion, mentioned he turned lodged in a crush of individuals for about an hour and a half.
“I needed to go to a protected place however it wasn’t doable,” he informed Reuters. “I used to be simply pushed by everybody and I simply could not do something.”
He mentioned he got here out with chest ache and a damage ankle, however felt sorry for individuals who have been killed or extra severely injured, in addition to the emergency staff who desperately tried to free folks.
He felt much less sympathetic in the direction of those that continued attempting to push their method by the group, typically complicating the duty of rescue staff who informed the throng to stay calm and in place.
“I am upset in opposition to them as a result of they pushed everybody they usually did not realise,” he mentioned.
Movies shared on social media confirmed a pile of our bodies wedged between buildings, some on the backside showing unconscious, whereas others reached out to emergency staff who struggled to free them from the crush.
“An individual proper subsequent to me fell, however then folks behind me continued to push me, then extra folks fell down and kinda piled up on each other,” mentioned a 30-year previous graduate faculty pupil from Seoul. “I screamed at individuals who have been pushing me: ‘Do not push! Folks fell!'”
One lady mentioned her daughter, pulled from the crush of individuals, survived after being trapped for greater than an hour.
Moon, the younger man who witnessed victims on the road, mentioned onlookers appeared so as to add to the confusion as they sought to assist associates.
“There have been some individuals who tried to forcibly cross the police line saying they’ve associates over there, they usually have been dragged out by police,” Moon mentioned.
Authorities had predicted as much as 100,000 folks would be part of the festivities, the primary with out main COVID 19-related restrictions because the pandemic started in 2020.
However they mentioned it wasn’t deemed essential to deploy extra officers to the world than common for a Halloween weekend, which generally additionally attracts TV stations to cowl the crowds and colourful costumes. Witnesses mentioned it was arduous to detect a significant police presence amid the throngs of individuals.
“Many individuals collect for Halloween yearly however there have been simply so many final night time, incomparably greater than earlier than COVID, so I couldn’t establish who’re police and who are usually not among the many crowd,” mentioned a girl in her 20s who mentioned she lived within the neighbourhood however declined to provide her identify.
The daddy of a girl in her 20s who died within the catastrophe mentioned the town’s preparations for the gatherings have been insufficient.
“It was anticipated that there can be a crowd of 100,000 or extra within the Itaewon space this weekend,” he informed Reuters as he stood in a Seoul funeral dwelling to gather his daughter’s physique.
“I feel there was no preparation for this, which led to this catastrophe.”
Social media footage confirmed private belongings and different particles scattered throughout the positioning of the incident, with firefighters administering CPR to folks mendacity on the street and police combating to maintain crowds again.
“I managed to flee the scene,” the graduate pupil mentioned. “But when I would stayed there only a few extra minutes, then I’d not have made it out, however would have died there.”