Crushing Halloween in Seoul. families have found missing items as South Korean police admit mistakes
Seoul, South Korea
At a cavernous gymnasium in Seoul on Tuesday, grieving families inspected the neat rows of belongings left at the scene of a deadly street collision. Itaevo.
Shoes, handbags, glasses, notebooks, wallets, card holders and colorful hats lay on makeshift tables and exercise mats along the polished floor, waiting to be claimed by their relatives. 156 victims killed during a Saturday night mob surge.
“I found. I think this is the one,” said a woman as she recognized the black coat, hugging it as she cried.
A middle-aged woman who had arrived with her husband collapsed on the floor in tears when she discovered a pair of knee-high boots. It was in the ranks of black shoes, stilettos and sneakers. In most cases there was only one shoe.
Another young woman, wearing a cast on her left arm, entered the gym to find her lost shoe. This woman, who did not want to be named, said she was outside the bar in the alley when the massacre happened.
Stuck in the crowd, he said he died of suffocation “to the point where I thought I was dead, but the foreigner shouted at me to wake up”. Her hand was badly bruised during the incident, and when she regained consciousness, the woman said she held on to herself until the crowd subsided and she could be rescued.
Family members entered the gymnasium one by one and in small groups, escorted by officials who hurriedly donned white gloves and were shown to tables so they could inspect and claim the carefully arranged possessions.
South Korea is in deep mourning for the killing of 156 people, including 26 foreigners, in a mob massacre on Saturday night, when an estimated 100,000 people crammed the narrow streets of Itaewon to celebrate Halloween.
Officials were expecting big numbers due to the area’s prevalence of Halloween parties in the pre-Covid years, but police admitted they were not prepared for this year’s crowd.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday, National Police Agency chief Yoon Hee-kyung took a deep bow as he opened a news conference, admitting for the first time that he had failed on behalf of the police in the capital that night.
Yoon said officers were unable to adequately respond to emergency calls that flooded the police call center before the disaster.
“The calls were of an emergency, telling of the danger and urgency of the situation, with a large crowd gathering before the crash,” Yoon said. “However, we believe that the response of the police to 112 (emergency phone number) calls was inadequate.
South Korean police received at least 11 calls from people in Itaewon about concerns about a possible massacre in the four hours before the incident on Saturday night, records provided to CNN by the National Police Agency show.
The first call came in at 6:34 p.m. Saturday from a location near the Hamilton Hotel, which borders the alley where the fatal wave occurred, records show.
“People are walking up and down the alley now, but it looks really dangerous. People can’t get down, but people keep going up (the gully), so I’m afraid people might get crushed,” one caller was quoted as saying.
“I managed to get out, but it’s very crowded. I think you should monitor this. No one controls (the crowd). I think the police should stop here and move some people so others can cross the alley. People can’t even pass, but more people are pouring in,” added the caller.
Then at 8:09 PM, another person in Itaewon reported that there were so many people in the area that they were falling and getting hurt. The caller requested traffic control, the record shows.
The deadly mob surge happened just after 10 p.m
On Monday, Oh Sun-jin, director of the agency’s violent crime investigation division, said about 137 personnel were deployed in Itaewon that night, compared with about 30 to 90 personnel in previous years during the outbreak.
“This time for the Halloween festival, as many people were expected to gather in Itaewon, I understand that it has been prepared with more police force than other years,” Oh said.
However, police at the scene were tasked with cracking down on illegal activities such as drug taking and sexual abuse in the area “rather than on-site surveillance,” Oh said.
On Tuesday, South Korean Prime Minister Han Dak-soo said a “lack of institutional knowledge and attention to crowd management” was partly to blame for the stampede.
“One of the reasons was the lack of deep institutional knowledge and attention to crowd management. However, the police are investigating,” Han said.
“Even if more police are deployed (at the site), there seems to be a limit to the situation as we don’t have a crowd control system, but we have to wait for the police investigation to find out the reason,” he added.
A CNN reporter returns to the narrow alley of Itaewon a day after the Halloween disaster. See what it looks like
At a cabinet meeting Tuesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol urged the need to create systems to prevent similar tragedies.
“Apart from the side streets where the big disaster happened this time, (we) need to establish security measures in stadiums, performance venues, etc., where crowds gather,” he said, adding that the government would hold an inspection meeting of the national security system. relevant ministers and experts soon.
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