Itaewon | CTV News


SEOUL, South Korea –

Seoul police assigned 137 officers to handle a crowd of Halloween revellers anticipated to quantity over 100,000 over the weekend — a choice that has come below intense criticism following the deaths of greater than 150 individuals when the group surged.

By comparability, practically 7,000 cops had been despatched to a different a part of the South Korean capital on Saturday to observe duelling protests that drew tens of hundreds however nonetheless fewer individuals than flocked to the favored nightlife district of Itaewon the identical evening. Even the duty drive created to research why the gang surged, with 475 members, is extra 3 times bigger than the element assigned to crowd management.

As South Korea mourns, officers are going through powerful questions on preparations for the celebrations and calls for for accountability within the wake of the nation’s worst catastrophe in practically a decade.

The nationwide authorities has insisted there was no option to predict the gang would get uncontrolled.

Experts disagree. Deploying so few cops, they mentioned, confirmed officers had been poorly ready regardless of understanding forward of time that there could be an enormous gathering following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in current months.

On high of assigning extra personnel, police and officers within the Yongsan district, which governs Itaewon, ought to have pedestrianized some streets and brought different measures to ease the crowding in slim lanes just like the one the place the deaths occurred, specialists mentioned.

Instead, the 137 officers in Itaewon had been assigned to observe crime, with a specific give attention to narcotics use, that means that for all sensible functions “nobody was taking care of pedestrian security,” mentioned Kong Ha-song, a catastrophe prevention professor at South Korea’s Woosuk University.

The deaths ought to be seen as a “artifical catastrophe,” mentioned Lee Changmoo, an city planning professor at Seoul’s Hanyang University.

Authorities have come below comparable criticism in nationwide media and on social networks. The headline of an editorial within the Hankyoreh newspaper on Sunday described the tragedy as “all too avoidable.” The paper mentioned its reporting confirmed {that a} pedestrian received knocked down by a crowd in Itaewon a day earlier than Halloween festivities — though nobody was damage.

Saturday’s deaths occurred in a downhill alley working between a dense row of retailer fronts and the landmark Hamilton Hotel. The path turned clogged by an enormous throng of partygoers earlier than a few of them fell and toppled over “like dominos,” in keeping with witnesses.

Emergency staff had been so overwhelmed by the variety of individuals misleading immobile on the bottom that they requested pedestrians to assist them with CPR. But Choi Sukjae, an emergency medication specialist and chief spokesperson of the Korean Emergency Medical Association, mentioned CPR, which ideally ought to be administered inside a handful of minutes, would not have made a lot of a distinction in lots of circumstances because the paramedics had been delayed attending to the scene as a result of the realm was so packed.

Kong, the catastrophe prevention professor, mentioned extra police and authorities staff ought to have been referred to as on to observe potential bottleneck factors. He recommended that the crush might have been prevented if authorities had enforced one-way strolling lanes, blocked entry to some slim pathways, and briefly closed Itaewon’s subway station to stop an extreme variety of individuals transferring in the identical course.

Officials additionally might have additionally briefly closed Itaewon’s foremost street to automobiles, as they did in the course of the annual Itaewon Global Village Festival earlier in October, thereby giving individuals extra room to unfold out, Kong mentioned.

Lee, the city planning professor, criticized Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min, who claimed, with out elaborating, that having extra police and fireplace division personnel on the bottom would not have prevented the tragedy.

When requested in regards to the variety of officers assigned, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency mentioned 137 was nonetheless greater than it despatched in 2020 and 2021, excluding models particularly assigned to virus management measures. Police and authorities officers have acknowledged this 12 months’s crowd was greater — but it surely was not clear by how a lot.

Kong added that the shortage of a central organizer on Saturday — when younger individuals flocked to bars and evening golf equipment to rejoice Halloween however there was not one particular occasion promoted — might have contributed to the tragedy.

“Our nation normally does an excellent job in following the handbook and sustaining crowd management at occasions the place there is a particular organizer,” he mentioned. “But officers are sometimes not sure what to do and even do not care about occasions that are not created by a selected organizer … though it is these occasions that normally require a more in-depth watch.”

Hong Ki-hyeon, a senior official with the nationwide police company, acknowledged that drawback throughout a information convention Monday, saying police shouldn’t have a longtime option to cope with such gatherings.

“In occasions like festivals which have a selected organizer, discussions are made between associated municipalities, police, fireplace departments and medical specialists who put together and cooperate below completely different roles,” Hong mentioned. “That is what we lacked relating to this accident.”

Yongsan district refused to reply questions on preparations. District Mayor Park Hee-young as a substitute mentioned in an announcement Monday that her workplace was deploying “all administrative assets” to help the injured and households of the victims.

In the 2 earlier years, the district’s preparations for the Halloween festivities had been centered on stopping the unfold of COVID-19 amongst partygoers. Workers toured bars, eating places and nightclubs to observe whether or not they had been abiding by social distancing guidelines, and checkpoints had been established in crowded areas the place public staff and volunteers took the temperatures of partygoers.

Saturday’s crush was the nation’s largest catastrophe since 304 individuals, largely highschool college students, died in a ferry sinking in April 2014. The sinking uncovered lax security guidelines and regulatory failures.

South Korea has a protracted historical past of lethal crowd crushes and stampedes, though none as lethal as Saturday’s. In 2005, 11 individuals had been killed and dozens had been injured in a pop live performance throughout a crowd crush within the southern metropolis of Sangju.

In 1960, 31 individuals died after being crushed on the steps of a prepare station as giant crowds rushed to board a prepare in the course of the Lunar New Year holidays.


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