Emergency calls from Itaewon raised the alarm early in the night

Emergency calls from Itaewon raised the alarm early in the night


TOKYO – Desperate pleas for help came in as early as 6:34 p.m., hours before unconscious bodies were to be lined up along a main street in Seoul’s Itaewon district after a huge stampede.

“There’s a lot of people going up and down this alley, I’m really nervous about it,” the caller said. “I think people might be broken. I barely escaped, but there are too many people. I think you should intervene.”

In the next few hours, more people would arrive in that same alley, and the partygoers would be packed to the point where they couldn’t even move their fingers and toes. At least 156 people were killed and at least 157 others were injured in the country’s deadliest incident in years.

South Korea admits police crowd control was ‘inadequate’ ahead of crush

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

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

At 9 p.m.: “There are too many people. A great calamity is brewing at any moment. Everyone is pushed. You have to come to control this crowd.”

At 21:51: “There are so many people, I think there should be crowd control. … If possible, can you hurry? … I feel very dangerous right now.”

At 10:11 p.m.: “Behold, we shall be broken. Chaos is… [audible screams] In Itaewon, on a side road. In Itaewon, on a side road.”

According to witness footage, members of the emergency services flooded the alley around 11 p.m. South Korean media reported that because the area was so congested, emergency personnel took longer than expected to reach the crash site.

Transcripts reflect the chaos of the scene and corroborate the accounts of some witnesses that the area had been worryingly crowded since early evening. Many partygoers and citizens criticized the lack of police presence in the area.

South Korea is dealing with the trauma of Halloween crowd sympathy

South Korean police chief Yoon Hee-geun said on Tuesday that crowd control was “inadequate” in the Itaewon area where the crush happened.

About 100,000 people a night were expected in the area over the Halloween weekend. There were only 137 local police officers assigned to the area — roughly one for every 730 people — whose primary role was to focus on petty crime, drugs and sexual and physical abuse.

Yoon, the police chief, said in his briefing that there were emergency calls from the area before the crash, warning of the large number of people who had gathered in the narrow alley where the wave later occurred. Independent investigators within the agency are now determining whether the response to those calls was sufficient, he said.

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