April 17, 2024

Itaewon Crush Leaves 150+ Teens and Young Adults Dead

Itaewon, a popular neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea held a Halloween celebration during the weekend, but it quickly turned deadly. As the first big celebration since Covid-19 restrictions had lifted, thousands of people flooded the narrow streets of Itaewon to have fun with their friends and family members. Festivals like these have risen in popularity over the past few years and foreigners even flew out to the country to enjoy their night.

View of the crowd from the end of the alley.

The one-lane alleys began to fill up with excited young adults ready to celebrate their night, but with crowd control already low, chaos would erupt soon. With so many filing into the streets at once, most of the crowd was standing shoulder-to-shoulder with each other. Witnesses that were a part of the crush say that they remember others around them losing their footing on the slopy street, causing a domino effect to take place. With a crowd so packed, there was no room to breathe. No one had control of where they were going, with groups getting stuck in the flow of people. Many even fell on top of each other, unable to help or do anything.

A graphic visualizing the domino effect of the crush.

Police had not been called until the situation escalated. Many of the paramedics couldn’t help the injured in need because of the location of the alley and how hard it was to move past hundreds of people. Many survivors are still mourning the losses of their friends and other victims that were killed by the suffocating pack. The aftermath showed police and paramedics trying to perform CPR, rows of body bags laid out on the streets, and people in panic as they escaped or searched for their companions.

Police and attendees huddled around a row of body bags.
Survivors mourning the aftermath of the tragedy.

Nathan Taverniti, an Australian survivor who was attending with his friends that night, recounts how it felt to be crushed by the weight of so many people. In an interview, he recalls seeing someone slip next to him in the crowd while others reached down to help. When he turned back to one of his friends, he found them stuck in a pile of toppled people. Unable to do anything because of the crushing weight of people on top, he let go. Later, he found his friend in the row of victims after being pulled out.

Many people are blaming the South Korean government for not having enough police patrol there despite the expected amount of people that would be there. There have been ceremonies held to pay respect and mourn all of the people who spent their last moments suffering.

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