Roundup: S.Korea’s Police Admitted Bungled Preventive Measures Over Halloween Crowd Crush

SEOUL, Nov 2 (NNN-YONHAP) – South Korea’s police chief, yesterday, admitted bungled preventive measures towards a deadly crowd crush that occurred Saturday night, at the Itaewon district of the South Korean capital Seoul, during Halloween celebrations.

Yoon Hee-keun, commissioner general of the National Police Agency, told a parliamentary committee that, although the police had received 11 emergency calls, alerting danger and urgency at the scene from 6:34 p.m. local time on the day of the incident, they had only taken incomplete preventive measures.

According to details on the emergency calls submitted by the policy agency to the National Assembly, cited by local news media, the first caller to police said, people could be crushed at a narrow alley, if things went wrong, as there were both people going up and coming down.

The caller asked the police to come to the scene to control crowd at the entrance to the alley.

Ten more calls had been made to the police 112 emergency call centre, over the next three-and-a-half hours, before the Halloween festivities turned into sheer chaos.

Around 10:15 p.m. local time Saturday, a dense crowd thronged a narrow sloping alley in Itaewon and fell over one another, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

At least 156 people were killed and 157 others injured, in the country’s deadliest disaster since a ferry sinking incident left 304 people, mostly high school students, dead in Apr, 2014.

Most of the victims were those in their 20s and 30s, as over 100,000 people gathered in the popular nightlife district of Seoul, for the country’s biggest no-mask outdoor Halloween event, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Before the crowd crush took place, other callers had appealed to the police for help.

After having received 11 emergency calls, police officers came to the scene only four times, to control crowd without detecting any potential danger for the disaster.

The police chief told a press conference before the parliamentary session that, the police response to the emergency calls in the field was incomplete, apologising to the victims and the bereaved families and vowing a thorough probe into the incident.

South Korean Prime Minister, Han Duck-soo, told a press conference with foreign correspondents in Seoul earlier in the day that, the Halloween crowd crush can be blamed on incomplete crowd management.

“It seemed that one of the significant reasons (for the incident) was eventually crowd management, for which (South Korea) somewhat lacks sufficient institutional support and systematic efforts,” Han said.

Han said that, even if large police officers were to be deployed to Itaewon, it would have had limitations in controlling the massive crowd, given that the country had incomplete regulations on crowd management.

The prime minister vowed to enhance relevant rules to prevent the recurrence of similar disasters, noting that, what were the decisive factors of the incident would be determined by the ongoing police investigations.


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