posted on 10/30/2022 05:00

(credit: Yelim Lee/AFP)

Every year, thousands of people dress up and head out to the multicultural neighborhood of Itaewon in downtown Seoul to celebrate Halloween. Joy and relaxation gave way, yesterday, to sadness and horror. The tragedy occurred in one of the narrow streets, where bars, restaurants and nightclubs are concentrated. As of this writing, at least 149 people have died and 76 were injured — 19 seriously — during a riot. Among the dead are at least two foreigners, one of them a US citizen. The Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not comment on the existence of Brazilians in this balance sheet. “The high number of victims resulted from the fact that many were trampled underfoot during the Halloween event,” explained Choi Seong-beom, in charge of the Fire Department, while admitting the possibility of an increase in the number of deaths. He revealed that most of the victims are young people in their 20s.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol convened the emergency cabinet, ordered the speedy identification of the victims and ordered the Interior Ministry to quickly investigate the causes of the incident. South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that dozens of people had suffered “cardiac arrest”. Alerts about the overcrowding of Itaewon were spread on social media hours before the tragedy. Oh Se-hoon, the mayor of Seoul, suspended a trip to Europe and hastily returned to South Korea.

Authorities ruled out that the tragedy was caused by a gas leak or fire in one of the nightclubs. Suspicions indicate a possible “panic flight”. Videos posted on social media show South Koreans and foreigners trying to move along a narrow, crowded street. Some people look scared and have difficulty breathing. Other recordings showed victims undergoing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the sidewalks. According to Choi, 1,701 first responders were mobilized for the incident, including 517 firefighters, 1,100 police officers and 70 government officials.

A resident of Itaewon since January 2018, journalist Thiago Mattos Moreira, 29, was celebrating Halloween with friends when the tragedy occurred. “At a certain time of night, I saw a series of bodies being dragged away. At the time, I thought they were drunk people, as it is a normal scene at this time, when people exaggerate a little”, he told the Correio. “Then I saw another and another body passing by. I realized that the situation had been escalated in a way that something was wrong. Several ambulances began to arrive on the street. Only later did the authorities confirm that they were the corpses of people who had been crushed,” he added. , by phone.

He described the scene as “very bizarre”. This is because Thiago recalled that, at first, people did not understand the situation as serious. “The impression you had is that the victims had fainted or had too much to drink. When the paramedics arrived and saw that they were dead, there was a panic among those who were there. It was a totally surreal scene. It was difficult to identify what had happened. happened immediately,” he said over the phone. According to him, the version that ran in Itaewon accounted for the ingestion of some narcotic substance. “A public official who was on my side claimed that a gas had caused people to faint.”


Language student Vanessa Parker, 24, called last night “the scariest” of her life. “I was there when the worst happened,” the American, who has lived in Seoul for two months, told the Post. “Around 10pm (10am yesterday in Brasília), the crowd entered a small alley full of bars. There was a wall of people. Once you get in there, you can’t turn around to leave. It was a human wave. anyone tripping there would be trampled,” he recalled.

It was then that she came across hundreds of people screaming, a little further on. “Everyone started screaming for us to turn around. It was two ‘walls’ of people, pushing against each other. People were crushed,” Vanessa said. “I managed to squirm and slide to the wall of a corridor between clubs. I waited until the crowd started moving in the same direction again, towards the main street, where the alley begins. At that moment, I didn’t realize anyone had been hurt. “

Only later did she discover that the screams were an attempt to warn about cases of cardiac arrest. “Paramedics were asking people to turn around so they could start the rescue,” said the student. Vanessa reported seeing people fall on each other. “Friends and strangers tried to help them before they were trampled. I almost had a panic attack. My breath started to get short. I knew that if I fainted, I would die. I tried to stay calm and breathe as deeply as I could,” she added. After leaving Itaewon, while waiting for the subway at Noksapyeong station, Vanessa saw 20 ambulances. “For minutes, I didn’t come across the bodies, thank God.”

  • Paramedics put one of the injured in an ambulance on the main street of Itaewon

    Paramedics put one of the injured in an ambulance on the main street of Itaewon
    Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP

  • Thiago Mattos (background, center) and friends celebrate Halloween, just before the riot

    Thiago Mattos (background, center) and friends celebrate Halloween, just before the riot
    Photo: Yelim Lee/AFP

The deadliest riots of the last decade

Mecca — 2,300 dead

On September 24, 2015, a massive riot on the outskirts of Mecca, during the annual pilgrimage, left 2,300 dead, the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the hajj. Pilgrims say the riot began with the closure of a highway and the security forces’ mismanagement of the flow of people.

Indonesia — 133 dead

On October 1st, Indonesian police tried to control a crowd of football fans with tear gas, causing a disorderly escape at a stadium in Malang, in the east of the island of Java. At least 133 people died, including more than 40 children. Many victims were trampled or suffocated as they tried to reach the gates.

India — 115 dead

On October 13, 2013, a religious festival in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (center) ended with at least 115 people dead, trampled or drowned, and more than 110 injured.
About 20,000 people were on a bridge over the Sindh River, when, according to local authorities, a rumor about its possible collapse generated a movement of panic.

Ivory Coast — 60 dead

On January 1, 2013, at least 60 people – including many young people – died after a riot among a crowd watching the fireworks of Saint Sylvester in Abidjan.

Iran — 56 dead

On January 7, 2020, a riot at the funeral procession of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Kerman (southeast) left 56 dead among the crowd present. Soleimani was killed on January 3 in a US drone strike as he was leaving Baghdad’s airport. He was considered a hero for his fight against jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

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