South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol has called for a period of national mourning, following the deaths of more than 150 people due to a crowd surge during Halloween festivities in the capital city of Seoul. An additional 100 people were injured in the accident.
Two U.S. citizens were killed in the surge, which happened in an alley in Seoul's entertainment district of Itaewon. Tens of thousands of people had participated in the festivities ahead of Halloween.
“Jill and I are devastated to learn that at least two Americans are among so many who lost their lives in Seoul. Our hearts go out to their loved ones in this time of grief, and we continue to pray for the recovery of all who were injured,” President Joe Biden said in a tweet on Sunday.
CNN reported that a first responder had said he had pulled survivors out of the bottom of the crush.
“We had bad feelings receiving the dispatch order yesterday. We knew that a lot of people would be out there because of Halloween and that the alley is narrow,” the responder said. “We knew that the alley goes a long way before connecting with the roadside. So, we took the reports seriously, that there could be deaths from pressure if the alley was indeed filled with people.”
According to Yonhap News Agency, the death toll had reached 154 by Monday with a possibility that it could rise even higher.
President Yoon also visited the scene Monday and canceled the rest of his public schedule on Monday. The period of national mourning is to last until Saturday.
On Monday, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also urged South Koreans to avoid sharing footage of the crush and refrain from making “hate comments” in relation to the disaster.
“On the Internet and social media, some users are posting hate comments about the victims, and sharing false information and provocative footage of the accident,” Han told a central government response meeting, as reported by Yonhap.
“I plead that users absolutely refrain from this kind of behavior.” He added that “the government will thoroughly look into the cause of the accident and do its best to revise necessary policies so that such a tragedy will not recur.”
In addition to South Korean officials and the president of the United States, United Nations secretary-general António Guterres also expressed his condolences through a spokesperson.
The Secretary-General is “deeply saddened by the tragic incident” and “expresses his sincere condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the Government and people of the Republic of Korea, and wishes a swift recovery to those injured.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.