Seoul, South Korea
South Korean officials said Monday they had no guidelines for handling the large crowds that gathered for the Halloween festivities in Seoul.Families across the country and around the world killed 154 victims of Saturday night’s crowd clashes. mourning the
The clash took place in a narrow, neon-lit alleyway in Itaewon, a popular nightlife district. Witnesses said thousands of revelers stood shoulder to shoulder in a street less than 4 meters (13 feet) wide, unable to move or breathe. .
Distraught families spent most of Sunday congregating at information centers where authorities compiled casualty details, contacting morgues and hospitals, desperate to find missing relatives.
All victims have now been identified, and panic has turned to national grief as the country grapples with one of the worst disasters in history. Overseas parents are arranging their deceased children in a foreign land.
An official memorial altar was set up in central Seoul on Monday, with photos of crowds of people visiting to pay their respects. Many were in tears and holding white flowers. Others knelt and bowed deeply to the altar.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife Kim Gun-hee, as well as high-ranking officials such as the prime minister and the mayor of Seoul, joined the mourners.
Many shops and businesses were closed in observance of the week-long nationwide mourning period. Parts of central Seoul were almost deserted. The usual A bustling capital of about 10 million people.
People also paid tribute to a makeshift memorial in Itaewon outside a subway station near the alley where the accident occurred. Station entrances are decorated with flowers and offerings such as handwritten notes, bottles of Korean soju, and paper cups filled with beverages.
Among the mourners was a civic group of bereaved families of the Sewol ferry, which killed 304 people, mostly teenagers on a school trip, when it sank in 2014.
“As someone who went through the same pain, I was heartbroken and speechless,” one member of the group told reporters at a memorial service, adding that the bereaved families hoped that “such a major disaster would be repeated.” He said he was sad to see him.
Just down the street, the entrance to the alley was blocked off and guards stood while a forensic team in white hazmat suits cleared the area, still littered with trash and debris. .
Amidst the grief, questions are being raised about the government’s response to the incident and the apparent lack of crowd control before the tragedy struck.
One of the survivors, Anne Lou Chevalier, a 22-year-old French exchange student, told CNN she passed out after being “crushed” by her revelers in the crowd. “At some point I couldn’t breathe and I was so overwhelmed by other people that I couldn’t breathe. So I just passed out,” said Chevalier.
Several witnesses and survivors said they had seen little or no police officers in the area before the situation escalated.
Earlier on Sunday, the Minister of Home Affairs and Security said only a “normal” level of security was deployed in Itaewon as the crowd did not appear unusually large, but a “significant number” of police. was dispatched to another location in Seoul to respond to the expected protests.
But in the face of backlash from South Korean politicians and social media, officials appeared to change course on Monday, with a workforce of about 30 to 70 in the years before the pandemic, but that night, pears It said it has deployed about 137 personnel to Taewon.
Oh Seung-jin, director of the Violent Crimes Investigation Division, said, “This Halloween festival was expected to attract a lot of people to Itaewon, so I understand that more police force was put into preparations than usual.” talked. National Police Agency.
However, “currently we do not have a separate preparation manual for situations where the organizer is absent and large crowds are expected,” he admitted. Furthermore, the police were deployed not for crowd control, but for crime prevention and prevention of “various illegal activities.”
Kim Seong-ho, director of the Disaster Prevention and Safety Management Division of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, said there were no “guidelines or manuals” for such an “unprecedented situation.”
Most of the victims were young people who went to Itaewon on Saturday night, eager to celebrate Halloween without coronavirus restrictions for the first time in years in South Korea.
Of the 154 dead, 12 were teenagers and 102 were in their 20s, the interior ministry said in a status report on Monday, 55 men and 99 women died.
Among them were 26 foreign nationals from the United States, China, Iran, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia, Norway, France, Russia, Austria, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others.
In addition, 149 people were injured, including 15 foreigners, and 33 were seriously injured.
According to South Korea’s education ministry, six students (one middle school student and five high school students) and three teachers at a school in Seoul died.
Three South Korean military personnel were also killed, according to a South Korean defense ministry official.
Two American college students were identified, Stephen Bresci from Georgia and Anne Zeisk from Kentucky. Both were third graders.
Blesi’s father, Steve Blesi, said his son was “always an adventurer”. He was an Eagle scout, loved basketball and wanted to learn multiple languages.
“Maybe half an hour before this tragedy happened, I texted him on WhatsApp… ‘I know you’re out. never replied,” said Steve. “He had an incredibly bright future, which is now lost.”
Anne’s father, Dan Gieske, said in a statement Sunday evening that the family was “completely devastated and heartbroken” and called Anne “a bright light loved by all”. .
According to the president of the University of Kentucky, Ann was a nursing student studying in Seoul this semester.
The father of Mei Tomikawa, a 26-year-old Japanese student who was crushed to death, told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK that he was “preparing for the worst” when he lost contact with her.
She studied Korean before starting school in Seoul, he said before traveling to South Korea from Japan on Monday.
“I tried to call her to warn her to be careful, but she didn’t answer,” he said, according to NHK. I want to see my daughter as soon as possible.”
The family of Australian victim Grace Rashed also released a statement on Monday, describing her as a “talented film producer who is passionate about making a difference.”
“Gone is Gone, the gorgeous angel who brightened up the room with her addictive smile. She left an impression on people. Grace always cared about others and was loved by everyone,” the family wrote.
Authorities are currently working with overseas embassies and families to assist with funeral arrangements. As the week progresses, more names and faces of those who have died are likely to emerge, and the country is expected to do so as weeks of festivities are planned in areas known to be crowded on Halloween. I’m looking for answers about how such disasters can occur. Expanded.