South Korea: How the Halloween tragedy unfolded 2022

South Korea: How the Halloween tragedy unfolded 2022
3 min read

After more than 150 people died in a deadly crush in Seoul on Saturday night, the BBC looks at how the tragedy unfolded.

Gathering crowds

Thousands of mainly young people had converged in Itaewon in the centre of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

It's a lively party spot with many narrow streets and alleys filled with bars and restaurants.

Some accounts say more than 100,000 had descended on the area that evening.

The neighbourhood is served by Itaewon metro station, and videos on social media show streams of people arriving to celebrate Halloween from early evening on Saturday.


Nuhyil Ahammed, 32, was in the crowd. The IT worker from India lives nearby and had been to Halloween parties in Itaewon before, but says things were very different this year.

 South Korea: How the Halloween tragedy unfolded 2022


"It was crazy," he told the BBC. "From 5pm there were too many people on the streets. So I was thinking, what's it going to be like from seven or eight?"

Around this time, social media messages were being posted online with people saying that the streets of the district were so crowded they felt unsafe.

The first call to police from Itaewon came at 18:34 local time - several hours before the deadly crush took place in an alley off the main road.

"That alley is really dangerous right now people going up and down, so people can't come down, but people keep coming up, it's gonna be crushed. I barely made it to get out but it's too crowded. I think you should control it," the caller said.

The police officer asked if the caller meant that people weren't flowing well, that "they get crushed and fall, and then there's going to be a big accident?"

Yes, the caller responded - "this is so chilling right now".


Between that first call and 22:11, there were at least ten more emergency calls to police from the area.

The police officer told the first caller they would send someone "to go and check it out" - but no significant reinforcements were sent for hours.

The crush

Videos show people converging into a narrow alley where the worst overcrowding was reported.

It was about 22:20 when the situation turned desperate. A number of people on the sloping pathway fell over, causing a massive crush. Crowds pressing from both ends of the alley made it impossible to get out.



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