What Happened? A Closer Look Inside The Shocking Itaewon Halloween Emergency

Our deepest condolences to the victims’ families.

Content Warning

This article includes descriptions of graphic content that may disturb some readers.

On October 29, between 10:15-10:22 PM (KST), the Yongsan Fire Station received multiple reports of a “crush accident” or a human stampede taking place in Itaewon—a district in Seoul, South Korea, well known for its annual Halloween celebrations. By 6:00 AM, the South Korean National Fire Agency confirmed in an official briefing at the scene that 149 persons had died.

What actually happened in the span of eight hours?

Thousands of Halloween celebrators pack the streets of Itaewon.

The district of Itaewon tried to prepare itself for Halloween 2022: The first no-mask-required “event” in three years following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Expecting over 100,000+ visitors, Itaewon dispatched over 200+ officers for the weekend of October 28-31, though it was originally “to prevent crimes such as illegal filming and abuse.” The police officers were also expected to “strengthen the crackdown on crimes associated with drugs.” 

A stampede in a tight alleyway leads to a crowd surge.

In a tight alleyway, next to the landmark Hamilton Hotel, Itaewon visitors started falling on top of each other as the crowd continued to push.

| Google Maps

The situation escalated quickly as this alleyway, later reported to be around four meters in width—barely enough to fit a sedan, has a slight grade.

The alleyway of Itaewon-ro where the stampede took place. | Google Maps

Caught between the crowd coming out of the hotel and the crowd coming out of the Itaewon subway station exits 1 and 2, around 50+ victims showed signs of suffocation and cardiac arrest.

At this point, around 10:15 to 10:22 PM, the first round of reports were made to the Yongsan Fire Station. Emergency officials reportedly received at least 81 calls reporting difficulty of breathing.

Ambulances are dispatched but have difficulty moving through crowds.

Over 142 first responder vehicles were mobilized to handle the emergency situation. Against the crowd, however, EMTs had extreme difficulty accessing the scene of the crowd surge.

It’s Halloween night and Itaewon has been packed since earlier. Impossible to move in the streets, crowds spilling onto the roads.

— Raphael Rashid @koryodynasty/Twitter

Meanwhile, the internet saw clips of ignorant partygoers in the streets dancing and singing—blocking access and creating traffic as firetrucks and ambulances attempted to administer aid to those in need.

EMTs begin administering CPR to those in cardiac arrest.

Lacking the space and personnel to handle the crowd surge, the emergency medical technicians began administering CPR to the victims at the scene on the streets of Itaewon. Social media platforms, like Twitter, saw “Disturbing footage emerging showing dozens of people lying on the floor receiving CPR from emergency services.”

Official reports of casualties come in, along with images of victims on the streets.

| @AmazingBen25/Twitter

During the second briefing, around 3 AM, the South Korean National Fire Agency revealed that there had been 120 confirmed deaths and 100 injured. Choi Sung Bum, the head firefighter of the Yongsan Fire Station also commented that “the number of casualties will rise, as some of the rescued individuals who have been hospitalized are in critical condition.”

45 out of the 120 deceased victims were sent to the Wonhyo Multipurpose Gym—said to be because of the lack of beds in the dozens of ERs in the medical centers around Seoul that took in the victims from the incident. KCSI at the scene were said to be working on identifying the victims.

At this point, the Yongsan Fire Station shot down the groundless online speculations that there had been a gas leak causing the mass casualty.

Crowds move out as emergency workers begin to clear the scene.

| Ron Kim/Koreaboo

As emergency services cleared out the scene of the incident, just east of the Itaewon station, the streets became blocked off entirely. Some media outlets, including MBC, reported that internet and cellphone services in the area were interrupted, due to the chaos that ensued.

| Ron Kim/Koreaboo

Itaewon’s subway station dealt with extreme congestion as everyone was urged to leave the scene.

Third briefing reveals an increase in the number of confirmed deaths.

At 4 AM, the numbers changed: The third briefing at the scene of the incident revealed 146 confirmed deaths. The Yongsan Fire Station reported that “the number [of deaths] has increased because the rescues have been hospitalized, and [they] have received updates on their statuses from the hospitals.”

| Ron Kim/Koreaboo

The personnel dispatched to the scene completed three rounds of searches around Itaewon. The Yongsan Fire Station confirmed there were no other rescues made in the additional search rounds.

Additionally, MBC reported that—based on the claims made by witnesses in the area—that the crowd began to form when “a celebrity” appeared in one of the establishments around the alleyway. The Yongsan Fire Station, however, claimed that the investigation is ongoing and no specific “cause” to the crowd surge could be verified as of now.

Yongsan Police Station Head Detective Choi Eul Chun | MBC

During this third briefing, the Yongsan Police Station denied all online speculations about the incident potentially being drug related.

A final briefing confirms 149 deaths total, with 76 hospitalized.

During the 6 AM “final” briefing to the Korean press, the Yongsan Fire Station reported 149 dead and 76 hospitalized. Out of the 76 injured, 19 are reported to be in critical condition. Also, out of the 149 confirmed dead, two have been identified as foreign nationals. 15 out of the 76 injured are confirmed to be non-Koreans as well.

Additionally, it has been confirmed that the bodies at the Wonhyo Multipurpose Gym are currently being identified and, once connected with the families, are being transferred to the different mortuaries in the medical centers around Seoul.

Death toll updates at 9:40 AM.

As of 9:40 AM (KST), the current death toll is at 151 people. 82 remain hospitalized: 19 are in critical condition. Out of the 151 deceased, 54 have been identified as male and 97 as female.

19 have been identified as foreign nationals from China, Iran, Uzbekistan, Norway, and other countries.

Watch the ongoing live coverage from Korea here.


Itaewon Halloween Emergency

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