Emergency calls from Itaewon raised the alarm in the early hours of the night

Emergency calls from Itaewon raised the alarm in the early hours of the night

Emergency calls from Itaewon raised the alarm in the early hours of the night


TOKYO – Desperate pleas for help were heard as early as 6:34 p.m., hours before unconscious bodies would line a main street in Seoul’s Itaewon district after a massive stampede.

“There are a lot of people going up and down this alley, I’m very nervous about it,” said the caller. “I think people can be overwhelmed. I barely survived, but there are many people. I think you should intervene.”

Over the next few hours, more people would arrive in that same alley, and the party-goers were so full they couldn’t even move their fingers and toes. At least 156 people were killed and at least 157 were injured as a result of the deadliest incident in recent years in the country.

South Korea admits police crowd control was “inadequate” before the massacre

Transcripts from about 11 emergency room logs released Tuesday show growing desperation and repeated warnings from partygoers at least four hours before the massacre turned deadly. They asked emergency personnel to intervene and control the crowd.

At 8:09 p.m., the caller gave detailed directions to where the crowd was gathering. “There are so many people here. … It’s crazy. People get hurt.”

At 21.00. “There are many people. A big accident is expected at any moment. Everyone is pushed. You have to manage this crowd.”

21:51. “There are so many people, I think there should be crowd control. … If possible, could you hurry? … It feels very dangerous right now.”

At 22:11. “Look, we’re about to be crushed. It’s chaos… [audible screams]. In Itaewon, on the back road. In Itaewon, on the back road.’

According to eyewitness videos, emergency workers flooded the alley around 11:00 p.m. South Korean media reported that because the area was so congested, it took responders longer than expected to reach the scene of the massacre.

The recordings capture the chaos of the scene and corroborate some eyewitness accounts that the area was disturbingly crowded in the early evening. Many party members and public representatives criticized the lack of police presence in the area.

South Korea grapples with Halloween crowd trauma

South Korea’s police chief Yoon Hee-kyung said Tuesday that crowd control was “inadequate” in the Itaewon region, where the massacre took place.

About 100,000 people were expected in the neighborhood each night during the Halloween weekend. Only 137 local police were deployed to the area, roughly one for every 730 people, whose main role was to focus on petty crime, drugs and sexual and physical violence.

Yun said in his briefing that there were emergency calls from the area before the smash, warning of the large number of people gathered in the narrow alley where the surge later occurred. Independent investigators within the agency are looking into whether the response to those calls was adequate, he said.

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