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South Korea’s police chief feels ‘heavy responsibility’ over Halloween stampede

South Korea’s police chief has said he feels a “heavy responsibility” over the stampede that left more than 150 people dead.

Some 156 people were killed and 152 injured when thousands of Halloween partygoers became trapped in a 3.2-metre-wide alley in the Itaewon area of Seoul on Saturday night.

Thirty of the injured are in a serious condition in hospital.

Shoes belonging to victims are arranged at a gym, where recovered belongings of the victims of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities are kept, in Seoul, South Korea, November 1, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
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Shoes belonging to the victims are arranged at a gym
National Police Agency Commissioner Yoon Hee-geun speaks during a press conference after the crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea, November 1, 2022. REUTERS/Heo Ran
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National Police Agency chief Yoon Hee-keun

Yoon Hee-keun, head of the National Police Agency, told a news conference multiple calls had been made to a hotline warning of a potential accident.

He also admitted that crowd control in the area was “inadequate”, following revelations earlier that just 137 police officers had been assigned to manage the crowd of more than 100,000.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol also said crowd management needed to improve.

He said: “We should come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowd, not only on these streets where this massive disaster took place but at other places like stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather.”

More on Seoul Stampede

The cause of the crush is still unclear but police are investigating claims that deliberate pushing could have been a factor.

Read more:
Seoul partygoer describes panic of crush at crowded Halloween event
How did Seoul Halloween celebration turn into a deadly crush?

There have also been claims that a massive crowd of people surged into the narrow alley to see a celebrity who had been visiting the area.

Cabinet members, accompanying South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, pay tribute to the victims during a visit to the scene of a crowd crush that happened during Halloween festivities, in Seoul, South Korea, November 1, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
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South Korean politicians lay flowers at the site

Kong Ha-song, a disaster prevention professor at South Korea’s Woosuk University, told Reuters news agency that more police officers and government workers should have been monitoring potential bottleneck points.

He said the crush could have been prevented if they had enforced one-way walking lanes, blocked entry to some narrow pathways and temporarily closed Itaewon’s subway station to prevent too many people moving in the same direction.

Among the dead were 26 foreign victims – five from Iran, four each from China and Russia, two from the US, two from Japan, and one each from France, Australia, Norway, Austria, Vietnam, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Sri Lanka.

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