SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea moved to quell public anger on Tuesday over a Halloween party crush that killed more than 150 people, mostly young adults, promising a swift and intense investigation and calling for tough new safety measures to prevent a similar occurrence. disasters.
The death toll from the stampede at a crowded Halloween Street party on Saturday rose to 156 dead and 151 injured, 29 of them seriously. At least 26 citizens from 14 countries were among the dead.
Tens of thousands of revelers – many of them in their teens and twenties and dressed in costume – throng the narrow streets and alleys of the popular Itaewon region for the first virtually unrestricted Halloween celebrations in three years.
The country’s top security officer, Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, apologized on Tuesday, pledging to find out the cause of the accident and prevent similar cases from recurring.
“As the minister overseeing the safety of the public, I express my sincere apologies for the incident,” Lee said, adding that the government “has unlimited responsibility for the safety of our people” while addressing a live televised parliamentary session.
He came under severe public criticism after saying that the deployment of more policemen would not have prevented the disaster.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon also apologized in tears during a media briefing, and said the city government will allocate all available administrative resources “so that every citizen can return to their normal lives.”
National Police Commissioner General Yoon Hee-kyun admitted earlier Tuesday that crowd control at the scene was “inadequate,” noting that police received multiple reports warning of possible accidents on the night of the disaster.
“The police will conduct intensive searches and investigations quickly and thoroughly in all aspects without exception to clarify the truth of this incident,” Yun told a news conference.
Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said the ongoing investigation would cover whether the responses of government agencies at the site were adequate. He cited insufficient institutional procedures for crowd management as the cause of the deadly boom.
President Yoon Seok Yeol declared a week of national mourning, saying that the country has witnessed many safety disasters. He said better responses were crucial, including better crowd control.
“We must come up with concrete safety measures to manage crowds, not only in these streets where this massive disaster occurred, but in other places such as stadiums and concert venues where large crowds gather,” he said at a cabinet meeting.
All the victims were identified and memorial altars were held in Seoul City Hall and in Itaewon District, where citizens paid their respects.
Reporting from Su Hyang Choi and Hyunhye Shin. Written by Jack Kim. Editing by Jerry Doyle and Jacqueline Wong
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