Hours before first deaths in Seoul crush, police received panicked calls

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TOKYO — Desperate pleas for help came in at 6:34 p.m., several hours before unconscious bodies lined a main street in Seoul’s Itaewon district after a massive rush.

“There’s a lot of people going up and down this alley, I’m very nervous about it,” the caller said. “I think people can be crushed. I rarely escape, but many people do. I think you want to intervene.”

In the next few hours, more people will arrive in the same lane and the party-goers will be so packed that they can’t even move their fingers and toes. At least 156 people died and at least 157 were injured in the country’s deadliest in years.

South Korea admitted that police crowd control was ‘inadequate’ before the crush

Transcripts of about 11 emergency call logs released Tuesday show growing frustration and repeated warnings from partygoers for at least four hours before the crush turned deadly. He requested emergency personnel to intervene and control the crowd.

At 8:09 p.m., a caller gave detailed directions to where the crowd was gathering. “There are a lot of people here. … It’s crazy. People are getting hurt. “

9pm: “There are a lot of people. A major accident is likely to happen at any moment. Everyone is being pushed. You need to control this crowd.”

At 9:51 pm: “There are so many people, I think there should be crowd control. … If possible, would you please hurry? … It feels very dangerous right now.”

At 10:11: “Here, we are going to be crushed. It is chaotic… [audible screams]. In Itaewon, back street. In Itaewon, on a back street.”

According to witness video, emergency crews swarmed the streets by 11 p.m. South Korean media reported that it took longer than expected for responders to reach the crash site because the area was so congested.

Transcripts reflect the chaos of the scene, and some eyewitness accounts confirm that the area was alarmingly crowded from dusk onwards. Many party members and public have criticized the absence of police in this area.

Cope with the trauma of South Korea’s Halloween crowd crush

South Korea’s police chief, Yoon Hee-gyun, said on Tuesday that crowd control in the Itaewon area where the crush happened was “inadequate”.

About 100,000 people per night were expected in that area over the Halloween weekend. Only 137 local police officers were deployed to the area – one for every 730 people – whose primary role was to focus on petty crime, drugs and sexual and physical abuse.

Yun said in his briefing that there were emergency calls from the area before the crush, warning of a large number of people gathering in the narrow alley where the wave later hit. Independent investigators at the agency are determining whether the response to those calls was adequate, he said.

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