Halloween crowd surge casualties prompt raid on Seoul’s police headquarters

After a deadly crowd surge at a Seoul Halloween event left at least 156 people dead, special investigators are raiding the city’s police headquarters. Records released of emergency calls warning that the crowds of Halloween party-goers were becoming too big, prompted the investigation as authorities say police had four hours of advanced warning.

Eight locations were searched including the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the Yongsan district police station among others. Such a sluggish police response to the alarming calls has many calling for justice. According to The Straits Times, South Korea launched a probe into what is thought to be the country’s worst disaster since the sinking of the Sewol Ferry back in 2014. The ferry’s sinking killed 304 people, with many criticising the government for its emergency responses.

Government and police officials admit they could have acted faster in terms of containing the crowds during the Halloween celebrations. As tens of thousands of party-goers crowded around, those who were killed were trapped in a 3.2-metre-wide alley. Witnesses say as people squeezed into the alley, they fell and piled onto one another, with most deaths resulting from asphyxiation.

Starting at 6.34pm, calls were made from the alley’s area to the emergency line with callers expressing their worries.

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“There are a lot of people going up and down the alley, I’m very nervous.”

“People might be crushed since they cannot come down, but people keep coming up. I barely escaped. There are too many people. I think you should take control.”

As the disaster started to unfold at around 10.15pm, one caller said he felt like he was about to be crushed and screamed while on the phone with emergency services.

President Yoon Suk-yeol was outraged that police took no action after receiving warning calls about the crowds. As many as 137 officers were in the area for the Halloween festivities, but they were not in charge of crowd control.

The Minister for the Interior and Safety expressed his condolences and “sincere apologies to the public over the incident.” President Yoon has put in place a week-long mourning period for the victims while calling on the government to develop crowd control systems for such large events.

Maeil, a South Korean business newspaper, noted that the tragic event yielded the biggest loss of life among foreigners since a 2007 incident at an immigration office that left nine people dead.

Most of the recent event’s victims were in their 20s and 30s, while at least 26 foreigners died.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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