SEOUL, Oct. 31 (Yonhap) -- Police did not foresee that massive casualties would occur from this year's Halloween festivities in the central Seoul district of Itaewon, a top police official said Monday, responding to growing criticism about their failure to prevent the deadly crowd crush.
Hong Ki-hyun, chief of the National Police Agency's Public Order Management Bureau, admitted the police's failure to predict the fatal crowd collapse among Itaewon's Halloween crowd during his meeting with reporters at his office.
"It was foreseen that a large number of people would gather there. But we didn't expect that large-scale casualties would occur due to the gathering of many people," Hong said.
Hong noted that this year's Halloween crowd was similar to the level of previous years or slightly bigger, though it has not been confirmed whether people gathered at a much faster rate than before.
"I was told that police officers on the scene didn't detect a sudden surge in the crowd," Hong said, expressing regrets about their judgment.
At least 154 people were killed in the deadly crowd collapse in a narrow 3.2-meter-wide downhill alley in Itaewon late Saturday night.
Hong then emphasized that 137 police officers were deployed to Itaewon on Saturday, compared with 37 to 90 officers in pre-COVID-19 years from 2017 to 2019, though most of the officers were committed to cracking down on illegalities and crimes and managing road traffic.
He also acknowledged that there were no separate measures related to the control of a crowd in the narrow alley where the disaster occurred.
Hong said there is no police manual for situations where large crowds gather without a clear organizer like the Halloween festivities in Itaewon.
Taking the latest disaster as an opportunity, police will come up with supplementary measures to determine the extent to which the public sector will intervene in case a large crowd is expected to gather without a clear organizer, he stressed.
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