At least 120 people have been killed and at least 100 more injured after being crushed by a large crowd pushing forward on a narrow street during Halloween festivities in the South Korean capital Seoul, officials have said.
Choi Cheon-sik, an official from the National Fire Agency, said dozens were being treated for injuries at hospitals and that the death toll could grow after the crush in the leisure district of Itaewon on Saturday night.
Officials say it was believed that the people were crushed to death after a large crowd began pushing forward in a narrow alley near Hamilton Hotel, a party spot in Seoul.
More than 400 emergency workers and 140 vehicles from around the nation, including all available personnel in Seoul, were deployed to the streets to treat the injured.
The National Fire Agency separately said in a statement that officials were still trying to determine the exact number of emergency patients.
TV footage and photos from the scene showed ambulance vehicles queued up in streets amid a heavy police presence and emergency workers moving the injured on stretchers. Emergency workers and pedestrians were also seen performing CPR on people lying in the streets.
In one clip, paramedics were seen checking the status of a dozen or more people who lay motionless under blue blankets.
Police, who were restricting traffic in nearby areas to speed up the transportation of the injured to hospitals across the city, also confirmed that dozens of people were being given CPR on Itaewon’s streets.
The Seoul metropolitan government issued emergency text messages urging people in the area to swiftly return home.
A local police officer said he had also been informed that a crush had occurred on the streets of Itaewon, where a crowd had gathered for the Halloween festivities. The officer requested anonymity, saying the details of the incident were still under investigation.
Some local media reports earlier said the crush happened after a large number of people rushed to an Itaewon bar after hearing that an unidentified celebrity was visiting.
The South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, issued a statement calling for officials to ensure swift treatment for those injured and review the safety of the festivity sites.
He also instructed the health ministry to swiftly deploy disaster medical assistance teams and secure beds in nearby hospitals to treat the injured.
Local media said about 100,000 people flocked to Itaewon streets for the Halloween festivities, which were the biggest since the start of the pandemic after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in recent months.