Itaewon emergency calls expressed 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 the main street in Seoul’s Itaewon neighborhood after a massive influx of people.

“There are a lot of people going up and down this alley, I’m very nervous about it,” said the caller. “I think people can be crushed. I narrowly escaped, but there are too many people. I think you should intervene.”

Over the next few hours, more people would flock to that same alley, and the revelers would be so packed they couldn’t even move their fingers and toes. At least 156 people died and at least 157 were injured in the deadliest incident in years in the country.

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

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

At 9 p.m.: “There are too many people. A major accident is about to happen at any moment. Everyone is being pushed. You have to get this crowd under control.”

At 9:51 PM: “There are so many people, I think crowd control is needed. … If it’s possible, can you hurry up? … It feels very dangerous right now.”

At 10:11 p.m.: “Here, we’re about to get crushed. It’s chaos… [audible screams]. In Itaewon, in the back road. In Itaewon, at the back.”

Emergency services swarmed the alley around 11 p.m., according to witness videos. South Korean media reported that because the area was so congested, it took longer than expected to reach the site of the crush.

The transcripts reflect the chaos of that scene and corroborate some witness statements that the area was alarmingly busy from the early evening. Many partygoers and members of the public have criticized the lack of police presence in the area.

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South Korea’s police chief Yoon Hee-geun said on Tuesday crowd control was “inadequate” in the Itaewon area where the attack took place.

In that neighborhood, about 100,000 people per night were expected over the Halloween weekend. Only 137 local police officers had been sent to the area — about one in every 730 people — whose primary role was to focus on petty crime, drugs, and sexual and physical abuse.

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

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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