After the mass panic in the South Korean capital Seoul, the number of fatalities has risen to more than 150 people, according to the latest information. According to the fire department, 19 foreigners are among them. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared national mourning on Sunday and said the government would pay for burials for the dead and medical treatment for the injured. Politicians around the world, such as US President Joe Biden and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), reacted with dismay.
Thousands of mostly young people crowded the narrow streets of the Itaewon neighborhood on Saturday night for the first Halloween celebrations since the start of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. A mass panic broke out around 10 p.m. (local time).
"There were so many people being pushed around and I got trapped in the crowd and couldn't get out at first either," 30-year-old Jeon Ga-eul told AFP. He had the feeling that sooner or later an accident would happen.
Initially, the fire department had spoken of dozens of people with cardiac arrest. Photos and videos showed people lying on the ground being cared for by rescue workers. According to the fire department, more than 140 ambulances were on site. Police officers cordoned off the scene of the accident in the popular nightlife district.
The South Korean fire department told AFP on Sunday that the death toll has now risen to at least 151 people. Among them are 19 foreigners. South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that people from Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Norway died in the disaster.
The Foreign Office (AA) in Berlin was unable to provide any information on Sunday night as to whether Germans were also killed in the accident. It's too early to tell, an AA spokesman told AFP. The embassy is in close contact with the authorities.
As Yonhap reported, according to the local fire department, 97 of the fatalities are women and 54 are men. According to this, there were 82 injured – the Ministry of the Interior, however, put the number of injured at 150.
In an interview with local broadcaster YTN, a doctor described chaotic scenes from the tragedy. "When I first attempted CPR, there were two victims lying on the sidewalk. But shortly thereafter, the numbers exploded, surpassing the number of first responders on the scene," Lee said.
It is difficult to put the events into words. “The faces of so many victims were pale. I could not feel their pulse or breathing, and many of them had bloody noses. When I tried to revive her, I also pumped blood out of her mouth."
President Suk-yeol pledged to "investigate thoroughly" the incident and ensure it never happens again. In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, he said, "A tragedy and catastrophe that should not have happened has happened in central Seoul." In the morning, Suk-yeol visited the scene.
The accident caused consternation worldwide. US President Biden said the US is "standing with" South Korea at this tragic time. "We mourn with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish all those injured a speedy recovery," the Democrat wrote on Twitter.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his condolences to the bereaved and victims of the Halloween tragedy in South Korea. "The tragic events in Seoul shock us deeply," said the SPD politician on Twitter late Saturday evening. "Our thoughts are with the many victims and their families. This is a sad day for South Korea. Germany stands by their side.”