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Seoul Halloween: Sloping alleys led to stampede, toll 150

Over a lakh people were packed into the narrow Itaewon streets. What caused the stampede is not known. But a commotion led to crowd surge. The sloping alleys opening to the metro's mouth worsened the crush. The swelling crowds began swaying and crashing as people lost their foothold on the slope, falling on top of each other like dominoes, and trampled to death.

SEOUL, Oct 30: Over 150 people, most of them teenagers and those in their 20s, were crushed to death and another 150 injured in a stampede at a packed Halloween event in central Seoul on Saturday. The stampede occurred around 10:00 pm (1300 GMT).

Those killed included 19 foreigners. They were mostly from Iran, Norway, China and Uzbekistan, a report said. The injured were being taken to the Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital.

The authorities have received 3,580 reports of people missing. More than 90% of the dead have been identified, the Government said. This was possible because all above age 17 years are issued national ID cards.

Around 100,000 young people had gathered in the narrow streets of Itaewon district to celebrate Halloween. There was commotion in the winding and sloping alleys as people bustled around to find way forward. As they scrambled to escape the crush, they fell on one another. Roadside bars and cafes aggravated the congestion. Those trapped in the narrow spaces were screaming.

What triggered the commotion and the crowd surge is not known. The streets were too packed for space to move. Even on normal days too the nightlife alleys are crowded.

After the incident the scene presented a ghastly sight of bodies strewn all over the pavements and the streets, many in their Halloween costunmes. Emergency workers began loading them on to ambulances.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning Sunday. He said the Government "will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and make fundamental improvements to ensure the same accident does not occur again in the future." Yoon and officials visited the scene Sunday morning.

Minister of the Interior and Safety Lee Sang-min said, “We understand that it was not a problem that could have been solved by deploying police or firefighters in advance.”

Many people from other countries come to celebrate Halloween in Itaewon.

What is Halloween

Halloween (a corruption of 'all hallows' eve'), also known as All Saints' Eve, is marked by scary costume parties, carving pumpkins, lighting of bonfires, and all things creepy - a celebration of the ghosts (souls of ancestors). In most countries it is celebrated on October 31, on the eve of All Saints' Day.

The Christian holiday of All Saints' Day, the commemoration and celebration of all saints for their achievements, falls on November 1, and is followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, when people visit loved ones' graves and pray. Chrysanthemum flowers, which symbolize death, are offered at the graves.

Halloween also once marked the change of season. In India, death of ancestors is not celebrated (unlike Halloween), instead they are commemorated. The period is called ‘Pitru Paksha’.

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