Amid great confusion and apparent failures in the chains of command, it took emergency services more than two hours to get everyone out of the alley, which is more than 30 meters long.
There are no Halloween decorations or people wearing costumes and there are many security devices and a new closed-circuit camera system to keep people waiting. This is how you live this week Seoul the first anniversary of the human avalanche which is charged 159 lives in the neighborhood of Itaewon.
For the past decade, for any twenty-something in South Korea, Itaewon, famous for the city’s most multicultural neighborhood, was the place to celebrate Halloween with costumes, alcohol and music until the early hours. morning time. The night of Saturday, October 29, 2022 changed everything.
After almost three years of restrictions due to the pandemic, about 100,000 people, eager to be able to celebrate freely again, took to the streets of this neighborhood that was once home to the largest military base in the US in South Korea and a meeting point for the LGBTI community and home to the country’s largest Muslim community.
The municipality of Yongsanwhere it is located Itaewondid not prepare any specific police equipment although local businessmen warned that in the past years the crowd has reached dangerous levels.
The emergency services instead removed many calls from pedestrians who, hours before the avalanche, warned about people.
Shortly after 10:00 p.m., the number of people crowded into an alley about four meters wide that connects a subway exit with pedestrian street full of barsynightclubs became unsustainable; Many began to fall and bodies piled on top of each other, and some of those who remained standing could not breathe again.
Amid great confusion and others apparent failures in the chains of commandit took emergency services more than two hours to get everyone out of the alley, which is just over 30 meters long.
It is believed that around a hundred people died on that road, many more did it in the hospital or while trying to revive them on the sidewalk, and a high school student – who was later officially identified as the 159th who was the fatal victim of the tragedy – took his own life a month and a half after losing two friends in a terrifying avalanche that he had previously survived.
This weekend, the atmosphere in Itaewon has nothing to do with previous years: there is not a single skull or pumpkin in the shop windows and terraces, you hardly see a costume or two, the crowd is like other Fridays or Saturdays, and the streets are literally armored.
Police and volunteers with glow sticks They organize pedestrian traffic at each intersection, strongly regulated by fences placed in the alleys to divide them into two one-way streets.
On the main roads, there are rows of ambulances and emergency stations.
Hongdae, alternative destination
In places like Hongdae, Seoul’s university neighborhood par excellence, authorities have been deployed Posters urging “not to celebrate Halloween”, because the area is the main candidate to absorb the people who traditionally come to Itaewon to celebrate.
In any case, the panorama is the same as in Itaewon: tight security and a little festive atmosphere, as if dressing is now forbidden.
In addition to more than 1,200 officers deployed in Seoul’s busiest nightlife areas, the city this year adopted a system in which a computer program counts people using images from closed-circuit cameras installed on streets that are usually crowded.
The system activate alarms It detected signs of dangerous overcrowding, but for the families of those who died in Itaewon, it and the massive deployment of police and emergency personnel seemed like a futile attempt to right the wrongs. at night.
The association that unites them criticizes the leaving the authorities and the fact that the police investigation of the incident, which closed the 16 accused, did not affect the important positions of the government or the police due to serious negligence, because of this, the families insisted, the South Korean State showed the himself unable to ensure the safety of public roads.
Now they can only hope that Parliament will soon approve a law that will reopen the investigations in the hands of an independent committee that will provide more answers that families and loved ones have been asking for.