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(2nd LD) Itaewon crowd crush death toll rises to 154, including 26 foreigners

All News 13:46 October 31, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 13-14,17-19)
By Park Boram

SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- The death toll from the Halloween crowd crush in Seoul has risen to 154, including 26 foreigners, officials said Monday, as the country mourned the deadliest tragedy in years and tried to cope with the aftermath.

The death toll could rise further, as 33 others remain in serious condition, according to officials at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters. A total of 116 others sustained minor injuries, they said.

All but one of the fatalities have been identified, officials said.

The 26 foreign victims include five from Iran, four each from China and Russia, two from the United States, two from Japan, and one each from France, Australia, Norway, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Sri Lanka, officials said.

Among those killed were one middle schooler and five high school students, all from Seoul, the education ministry said. Five other middle or high school students have been injured, and two of them were being treated at hospitals, it said.

The tragedy happened Saturday night when a massive crowd of Halloween partygoers packed a narrow 3.2-meter-wide alley in Seoul's entertainment district of Itaewon. Some of them began to fall over, causing others to fall down like "dominoes" and pile up on one another.

It marked the deadliest crowd crush in South Korea's history and the worst disaster the country has seen since 2014, when the ferry Sewol sank in waters off the south coast and killed 304 people, mostly high school students.

A person is on his knees near Itaewon Station in Seoul on Oct. 31, 2022, in mourning of the deadly Itaewon crowd crush two days ago. (Yonhap)

A person is on his knees near Itaewon Station in Seoul on Oct. 31, 2022, in mourning of the deadly Itaewon crowd crush two days ago. (Yonhap)

Bouquets of flowers lie on Oct. 31, 2022, in front of a police line that surrounds the site of the Oct. 29 crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon district. (Yonhap)

Bouquets of flowers lie on Oct. 31, 2022, in front of a police line that surrounds the site of the Oct. 29 crowd crush in Seoul's Itaewon district. (Yonhap)

The site of the accident is a downhill 40-meter back alley that links a busy restaurant district with a main street, where about six adults can barely pass at the same time.

Tens of thousands of people were visiting the area for Halloween festivities after the government lifted the outdoor mask-wearing mandate against the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year.

Most of the fatal victims were in their 20s, and the majority of those killed were women at 98, due largely to what experts say is their relatively smaller frame and fewer muscles to resist crushing pressure.

A government probe in currently under way to determine the exact cause of the accident.

A message of mourning is pasted on a wall on Oct. 31, 2022, near the site of the Oct. 29 Itaewon crowd crush. (Yonhap)

A message of mourning is pasted on a wall on Oct. 31, 2022, near the site of the Oct. 29 Itaewon crowd crush. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol announced a weeklong national mourning period starting Sunday and ordered the lowering of flags.

Mourning altars have been set up in many parts of Seoul and across the nation, including at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall and in the Yongsan district near the accident site, to allow citizens to pay tribute to the dead.

President Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee visited and paid tribute at the Seoul Plaza on Monday, followed by Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and other government ministers.

People began to lay flower bouquets, white mourning flowers and candy near the accident scene in Itaewon on Sunday, and many visited the site to mourn the deaths of young victims.

"I came out to pray for the victims and their families," a 29-year-old citizen, surnamed Yoon, told Yonhap News Agency after paying tribute in the neighborhood late Sunday. "I hope that people can find hope in the midst of despair."

Citizens mourn the deadly Itaewon crowd crush at an altar at Seoul Plaza on Oct. 31, 2022. (Yonhap)

Citizens mourn the deadly Itaewon crowd crush at an altar at Seoul Plaza on Oct. 31, 2022. (Yonhap)

Many business owners in the Itaewon neighborhood, including restaurants, shoe stores and cafe operators, joined the mourning by putting up messages of condolences for the victims. Many of them resolved to stay closed till the last day of the national mourning Saturday.

"We, merchants in Itaewon, have been enormously shocked and feel responsibility for the tragedy," a bakery owner, surnamed Oh, told Yonhap News Agency, adding many are looking for ways to mourn.

The bakery owner decided to join the business closure till Saturday and provide free buns and coffee to police and rescue officials on duty in the neighborhood.

Youtube

https://youtu.be/k2cr8BLFhNk

Messages on store fronts in Itaewon on Oct. 31, 2022, express condolences for crowd crush victims and announce temporary closures. (Yonhap)

Messages on store fronts in Itaewon on Oct. 31, 2022, express condolences for crowd crush victims and announce temporary closures. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
(END)

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