At a Seoul gym on Tuesday, bereaved families inspected neat rows of belongings left behind at the site of the deadly crush on the streets of Itaewon, South Korea.
Shoes, bags, eyeglasses, notebooks, wallets, card holders and colorful hats were placed on makeshift tables and mats along the polished floor – waiting to be claimed by the closest relatives of the 156 victims killed in Saturday night’s crowd. .
“I found. I think this is it,” said one woman, recognizing a black coat, hugging it as she cried.
The middle-aged woman, who had arrived with her husband, collapsed to the floor in tears after discovering a missing pair of high boots. She stood between rows of black boots, high heels and sneakers. In many cases, there was only one shoe.
Another younger woman with her left arm in a cast entered the gym to find her missing shoe. This woman, who declined to be named, said she was standing in front of a bar in the alley when the accident happened.
Caught in the crowd, she said she passed out from asphyxiation “to the point where I thought I was dead, but a foreigner yelled at me to wake up.” Her arm was badly injured during the incident and after she came to, she said she just held on until the crowd calmed down and she could be rescued.
Family members entered the gym, one by one and in small groups, escorted by staff who hastily donned white gloves and led them to tables so they could inspect and claim their carefully arranged belongings.
South Korea is in deep mourning for the 156 people killed, including 26 foreigners, in the crowd on Saturday night, as some 100,000 people packed the narrow streets of Itaewon to celebrate Halloween.
Authorities had expected large numbers given the area’s popularity for Halloween parties in the pre-Covid years, but police admitted they weren’t prepared for this year’s crowd.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday (1), Yoon Hee-keun, head of the National Police Agency, bowed as he began a press conference, admitting for the first time failures on behalf of the police in the capital that night.
Yoon said officers did not respond properly to emergency calls that flooded the police call center before the disaster.
“The calls were about emergencies reporting the danger and urgency of the situation in which large crowds had gathered before the accident occurred,” Yoon said. “However, we felt that the police response to 112 (area emergency telephone number) calls was inadequate.”
South Korean police received at least 11 calls from people in Itaewon about concerns of a possible concern four hours before the incident took place on Saturday night, according to records provided to South Korean police. CNN by the National Police Agency.
The first call was made at 6:34 pm (local time) Saturday from a location near the Hamilton Hotel, which borders the alley where the fatality occurred, records show.
“People are going up and down the alley now, but it looks really dangerous. People can’t go down, but people keep going up [o beco]so I fear people might be crushed,” said one interlocutor, according to the record.
“I managed to get out, but it’s too crowded. I think you need to control this. no one is controlling [a multidão]. I think the cops should be here and moving some people around so others can go through the alley. People can’t even pass, but there are more people coming in,” added the interlocutor.
Then, at 8:09 pm (local time), another person in Itaewon reported that there were so many people in the area who were falling and hurting themselves. The caller asked for traffic control, as shown in the log.
The increase in the deadly crowd took place shortly after 10pm (local time).
On Monday, Oh Seung-jin, director of the agency’s violent crime investigation division, said about 137 employees were sent to Itaewon that night, compared with about 30 to 90 employees in previous years before the pandemic.
“For the Halloween festival at this time, because many people were expected to gather in Itaewon, I understand that it was prepared with more police force than in other years,” Oh said.
However, on-site police were tasked with cracking down on illegal activities such as drug use and sexual abuse in the area “rather than controlling the site,” Oh said.
On Tuesday, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said the “lack of institutional knowledge and consideration for crowd management” was partly to blame for the crowd.
“One of the reasons was the lack of deep institutional knowledge and consideration for crowd management. However, the police are investigating,” Han said.
“Even if more police were placed [no local]there seems to have been a limit to the situation as we do not have a crowd management system, but we will need to wait for the police investigation to find out the cause,” he added.
At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Yoon Suk Yeol called for the need to establish systems to prevent similar tragedies.
“In addition to the side streets where the big disaster happened this time, we need to establish security measures in stadiums, performance venues, etc., where crowds gather,” he said, adding that the government will hold a national system inspection meeting. of security with ministers and relevant experts coming soon.
Source: CNN Brasil
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