A fresh graduate in her first full-time job; A teenage girl who helped raise her siblings after their father’s death; A foreign exchange student excited about his first trip to Asia.
In the seven days since 156 people were killed in Halloween satire in the South Korean capital, the names and stories of those who died have emerged, along with details of missed warnings and desperate pleas for help.
According to police emergency call records, multiple calls were made as early as four hours before the tragedy, as the crowd in Seoul’s nightlife district Itaewon became so packed that partygoers could not move or breathe.
Videos captured over the course of that night show revelers realizing, slowly at first and then in a panic, that what was supposed to be a fun night out was getting dangerously out of control.
Ultimately, the police sent four police missions to the site that evening, but they were too few and too late to prevent disaster.
Families are mourning the loss of loved ones, most of the victims are in their teens and twenties. Amid the grief, anger grew with demands for answers about how things could go horribly wrong.
Here’s a look back at how the disaster unfolded – and the early signs of danger gone unheeded.
Halloween in Itaewon is not a solo event organized by the organizer – it is a popular place for young people, often in elaborate costumes, to go to bars and clubs.
From the Itaewon subway station, the main nightlife strip can be reached via a sloping alley of less than 4 meters (13 ft), which runs between a brick wall at the Hamilton Hotel and some shops. On weekends, the alley becomes a busy route for people coming and going, giving it a joyful atmosphere where friends meet and party.
By 4pm on October 29, Park Chang-ki, a parking worker who was working on the other side of the road from the alley where most of the stampede occurred, said the crowds had become “remarkably large”.
by 5 pm, The alley was so full that it was completely closed, according to the owner of the restaurant facing the alley.
6:34 pm, The police received an emergency call – the first of 11 increasingly urgent calls that demanded first for crowd control, and then for rescue workers.
“This alley does not look safe,” the caller said. “It looks like (people) can be crushed to death.” “I’m barely getting away, I think you need to control this, there are simply too many people.”
The officer replied, “The police will come out and check it out.”
by 7 pm, Park, the parking worker, said people in the alley were flocking to the main road next door.
According to police records, The second emergency call came right after that 8 pm, where the caller says people get pushed, fall and get hurt. “It’s messy…I think it has to be controlled somehow,” the caller said.
Similar warnings soon followed, and intensified.
Shortly after 8:30 pm, The police caller warned that the situation was “really dangerous”. Twenty minutes later, another caller said it felt like a “crazy house.”
“It’s not a joke. They told me, it’s not a joke call, please.
Things escalated quickly between 8pm and 9pm, with footage showing the streets of Itaewon – lined with clubs and bars blasting with music – full of revelers standing side by side, some advancing in a slow-moving wave.
Crowds are not unusual in Seoul, or in the Itaewon region, which is often packed with parties on weekends. Some experts said this may have contributed to the disaster, with residents unaware of the danger because they are used to being overcrowded. crowds.
In a selfie video taken at 8:41 PM22-year-old French exchange student Anne Le Chevalier and her friends laugh at the number of people waiting in a steady crowd.
“At first we thought it was funny,” he said. Chevalier. “We heard Halloween in Itaewon was amazing.”
But soon the anxiety began. In a video taken just minutes later, the group’s laughter escalated as one of the girls said, “Just try not to fall.” Another replied, “I’m afraid.” Soon, Chevalier says, they started feeling crushed. She lost consciousness and was evacuated, with the photo taken in 8:58 pm. This indicates that it has been lifted Away from the crowd by two men.
by 9 pm, An emergency caller urged police to “send an emergency message now,” saying “a major accident could happen at any moment.”
Several other callers at this time warned that people were being run over, and described the situation as “terrible.”
single connected, in 9:02 PMTo put it more bluntly: “Someone is going to die.”
By 9:30 p.m. The streets were crowded. Some people reported that they couldn’t even get out of a nearby subway station, with new partygoers still arriving in the area.
Now, the danger was clear. Ian Chang, a 21-year-old college student from Florida, arrived in Itaewon around 9:40 pmHe plans to meet his friend Stephen Plessy, another American exchange student – But the crowds were so intense that he texted Plessy 10:17 PMUrging him to avoid the area.
It is not clear if his warning reached Plessy – one of the two American victims who died that night, the other being 20-year-old Anne Geske of Kentucky.
sometime before ten in the evening, Emily Farmer, a 27-year-old English teacher in Seoul, ran away to a bar after being “overwhelmed” by crowds. Soon, she said, rumors started circulating that someone had died and the clients were not allowed to leave.
By 10:21 PM Some began to take desperate measures. Image showing a man climbing a wall to escape, being cheered by passersby unaware of what was happening.
Minutes later, the police began receiving reports of people being “burried” in it crowd.
“It’s 10:23 PM “We have received more than five reports of people falling, and they could be injured or die,” one respondent told CNN, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Authorities rushed to the scene, where they saw up to “10 rows of faces – we couldn’t even see their legs,” the first responder said. They said the workers picked up the people in the bottom row first – but “when we put them (on the floor), most of them were unconscious.”
The sheer volume of people also made it difficult for the police to reach those who needed help. Videos posted on social media showed people pressing down on other party-goers as they lay on the floor while waiting for medical attention.
Sophia Akhiat, an American doctor in Itaewon that night, was taken to a side street after telling an officer she could help.
“I was totally overwhelmed but I started CPR on the first body I saw,” she said. “It was very chaotic because there were so many casualties on the ground, along with foot traffic and party-goers and music coming out of the surrounding restaurants and clubs who had no idea what was going on.”
Adding to the confusion was the fact that most people were in costumes that night – which means some police officers mistook them for their fellow partygoers.
A 20-year-old eyewitness, who asked not to be identified because she didn’t feel comfortable having her name published, said when an officer tried to direct the crowds, she heard one of them ask, “Is he a real cop?”
By 11:46 PM South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that dozens of people were receiving medical help after suffering “cardiac arrest,” citing fire authorities. Pictures show the road littered with police cars, with officers cordoning off the area.
at 11:55 pm, The Seoul Metropolitan Government has sent out an emergency alert to residents in Itaewon, asking vehicles to move away due to an “emergency accident near the Hamilton Hotel”.
“Citizens, please return home as soon as possible” – which will be repeated in several other alerts in the following hours, the statement read.
This was more than five hours after the first emergency call was received, with reports of the disaster starting to spread widely on social media.
Around 12:14 AMthe country’s National Police Agency has submitted its first report to agency chief Yoon Hee-kyun, according to Yonhap News Agency.
President Yoon Seok-yeol has sent a disaster medical assistance team to Itaewon, ordering hospitals to prepare emergency beds.
By 12:30 AM The scale of the tragedy is becoming clear, with photos showing a row of blue body bags on the street, as first responders carry the wounded on stretchers and into ambulances.
A little after one o’clock in the morning, Authorities released their first death toll of 59 as they frantically moved the wounded to nearby hospitals, and the bodies to multiple hospitals.
During those early hours, the city government began receiving a deluge of missing person reports, beginning a days-long effort to identify the victims.
By 6 a.m. on Sunday, When families across South Korea woke up to the news and began the agonizing search for their loved ones, the death toll rose to 149.
This number slowly rose over the following days as more people died of their injuries, reaching the current number of 156.
Now, the initial panic and horror that night has turned into nationwide devastation and calls for accountability.
on Monday, Authorities said they have no protocols for dealing with massive crowds without a specific organizer.
Then, the prime minister said, the disaster revealed South Korea’s “lack of deep institutional knowledge and consideration for crowd management.”
Tuesday, The national police chief admitted police Response to emergency calls was “inadequate”.
“Through this incident, I feel a deep responsibility for public safety and we will do everything in our power to make sure that such a tragedy does not happen again,” he said, announcing a special investigation team and promising transparency.
The investigation will include examining why police sent only four messages before the accident despite the high number of calls.
by WednesdayThis unit of investigation Local police stations raided all over Seouland adjusting the internal reports and documents relating to the emergency calls made that night.
Meanwhile, the chief of Yongsan Police Station – in charge of the area where Itaewon is located – has been stopped and replaced. Investigation is underway.
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