Authorities reported that at least 149 people died in an alley-venue Halloween party in Seoul, South Korea, when a huge crowd came surging into a nightlife area on Saturday night.
Reports also said there were at least 150 people injured in the melee in Seoul’s Itaewon district, according to Choi Sung-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Station.
Officials said many of the injured sustained serious condition and are receiving emergency treatment.
It was the first Halloween celebration in three years in Seoul after the country lifted its COVID – 19 restrictions and social distancing rule.
Many of the partygoers present wear masks and various Halloween costumes.
Some witnesses observed the crowd were becoming gradually uncontrollable as the evening went on.
Reports said the incident took place at about 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT).
Choi Sung-beom said a number of people fell during a Halloween festival and saw a large number of casualties, adding that many of those killed were near a nightclub and many of the victims were women in their twenties.
It was observed by witnesses that the moments before the tragedy, the scene was chaotic as the police, in anticipation of the Halloween party having trouble controlling the order of the crowds.
A witness said there were clear signs of trouble in the alleys before the incident, saying the venue was having at least 10 times the crowd than usual.
Some uploaded social media footage showed hundreds of people packed in the narrow, sloped alley were crushed and immobile as emergency officials and police tried to pull them out.
The Yongsan district fire chief said that all those who died were likely from the crush in the single narrow alley.
Moreover, other footages showed the chaotic scenes of fire officials and citizens treating dozens of people who appeared to be unconscious.
Fire officials and witnesses said people kept on going in the narrow alley that was already full side to side, when those at the top of the sloped street fell, sending others below them toppling over others.
Some survivors were reportedly trapped for more than an hour before being pulled out from the crush of people in the alley.
A witness said a make-shift morgue was set up in a building adjacent to the scene.
Also according to a witness, four dozen bodies were carried out later on wheeled stretchers and moved to a government facility to identify the victims.
In South Korea, the Itaewon district is popular both with the young population and expatriates.
Dozens of bars and restaurants were jam packed for Halloween after businesses in the area had suffered a sharp decline due to the pandemic.
Some foreigners were reported among those transferred to nearby hospitals.
Foreign governments have already sent their messages to South Korea.
The first was British new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he tweeted: “All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very distressing time”.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “We send our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and injured, as well as to the people of (South Korea) as they mourn this horrific tragedy.”
Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol presided over an emergency meeting with senior aides, and ordered a task force be set up to secure resources to treat the injured and to launch a thorough investigation into the cause of the disaster.