Tragedy filled the streets of South Korea’s capital Saturday night when about 300 people were crushed as crowds surged through a narrow Seoul street, leaving more than 146 dead, according to officials’ estimates.
Pedestrians joined hundreds of emergency workers in offering aid as dozens of people lay in the street, many in cardiac arrest. In addition to the fatalities, an estimated 150 more people were injured, officials said.
Choi Seong-beom, chief of Seoul’s Yongsan fire department, released preliminary death tolls as he acknowledged many of the dead remained at the scene. Dozens who had been on the streets were being transported to a nearby gym where workers would identify them, he said.
In the streets, ambulances lined up; emergency responders rushed the injured on stretchers; motionless bodies lay under blue blankets — these scenes were broadcast on TV footage and captured in photos of the carnage.
Grant Hauck told USA TODAY he left a dinner with friends when he heard there were lots of people hurt nearby.
He said he remembers running a mile to the scene and immediately finding several bodies in the street. For every person hurt, there were five or more people trying to help the person, he said.
“I turn the corner to the main street and there’s two or three ambulances, a fire truck and in the middle are like five or six bodies on the ground on one side of the street,” Hauck said.
Hauck, who said he minored in emergency medical service, or EMS, at University of Vermont, said he assisted people administering CPR, making sure their technique was right.
He pumped the chests of two injured people himself.
Huack, a family member of a USA TODAY staffer, has been living in Seoul since August 2021. He said he was “immediately overwhelmed,” by the “mass trauma” event.
The tragedy occurred on the “busiest party night of the year,” Hauck said. The area is next to the old U.S. military base and is a popular nightlife spot.
The crush happened in the leisure district of Itaewon, where local media said 100,000 people were expected for Halloween festivities.
The epicenter of the tragedy disaster appeared to be an alley near a major party spot in Seoul — Hamilton Hotel.
Citing local media reports, the Associated Press said the crush may have happened as people rushed to a bar seeking to see a celebrity.
Following the fatal crowd surge, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement calling for swift treatment for the injured and a safety review of the festivity sites.
Tragedy has struck in many crowded places when crowds surges spiral into a chain reaction of carnage. More than two thousand people died in 2015 on the outskirts of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage. In November 2021, ten people died after a crowd rushed toward the stage at a Houston music festival during a performance by rapper Travis Scott.
Contributing: The Associated Press