- Death toll rises to 154, 149 injured
- Government promises exhaustive investigation
- Residents, officials offer condolences at memorials
- The disaster is the worst in South Korea since the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014.
SEOUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) – South Korean researchers on Monday combed through footage from more than 50 state and private closed-circuit television cameras, as well as social media, for answers on how a surge in attendees at the Halloween party stuck in narrow alleys killed So many
As the country entered a week of mourning, the death toll rose to 154. Another 149 people were injured, 33 of them in serious condition. Among the dead were citizens of at least two dozen countries.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo promised a thorough investigation, and authorities said they were focused on piecing together the chain of events that led to the surge and were looking into whether anyone might have been responsible for triggering the crush.
“We are analyzing security cameras to find out the exact cause of the accident,” chief police investigator Nam Gu-jun told reporters.
“We will continue to question more witnesses, including employees of nearby stores,” he said.
Tens of thousands of revelers, many in their teens and twenties and dressed in costumes, had crowded the narrow streets and alleys of the city. Itaewon People’s District on Saturday for the first virtually unrestricted Halloween festivities in three years.
But chaos broke out when people streamed into a particularly narrow, sloping alley, even after it was already full, witnesses said.
Identification of the victims was nearly complete and funeral preparations can go ahead, Han said. “We will do our best to provide necessary support by reflecting the views of the bereaved families as much as possible.”
On Monday, people placed white chrysanthemums, drinks and candles on a small makeshift altar outside the Itaewon subway station.
Jung Si-hoon, a pensioner, placed an old wooden cross on the altar and said that nothing could be done to bring back all the young people who had died.
“Those poor people, all of similar ages to my grandchildren… What more can we say? We must pray for them and wish them rest in peace,” he said.
On Monday afternoon, dozens of crime scene investigators and forensic officers descended on litter-strewn alleyways that were eerily quiet with many shops and cafes closed.
An agent from the National Forensic Service team, wearing white overalls and a black mourning ribbon pinned to his chest, operated a Leica 3D scanner, he said, “to capture the scene.”
President Yoon Suk-yeol, who designated Itaewon as a disaster area, visited a memorial altar near Seoul City Hall and paid his respects to the victims on Monday.
Schools, kindergartens and businesses across the country scrapped planned Halloween events. K-pop concerts and government briefings were also cancelled.
The crush came as Itaewon was starting to thrive again after more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions. The disaster is the country’s deadliest since the 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.
Han said there were incidents of people spreading hate speech by blaming victims, as well as incidents involving spreading false information and posting disturbing scenes of falling in love online. An official from the National Police Agency said they were investigating six related cases.
Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Ju-Min Park; Additional reporting by Choonsik Yoo and Joyce Lee; Written by Lincoln Feast and Jack Kim; Edited by Gerry Doyle, Edmund Klamann, and Edwina Gibbs
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