At least 146 people were reported dead Saturday night during a Halloween celebration near Itaewon in Seoul, according to Choi Sung-beom, chief of the Yongsan-gu Fire Department.
At least 150 others were reportedly injured, the chief added.
The cause of death has not been confirmed, but the fire chief said there were casualties due to multiple falls during the Halloween festivities. The chief said they had received reports of people being “buried” in crowds starting around 10.24pm local time on Saturday.
Earlier, Yonhap News Agency reported that some had suffered “sudden cardiac arrest,” blaming the fire department for the claim. Emergency officials assist at least 81 people in Seoul’s Itaewon community reporting “difficulty breathing.”
Choi Jae-won, director of Yongsan Health Center, said dozens of wounded were transferred to nearby hospitals and the death toll could increase.
Authorities are still investigating what led to the incident; there were no gas leaks or fires at the scene, according to the fire chief.
A witness described a chaotic scene to CNN, saying he saw people crowded into a narrow street where you couldn’t breathe.
“I saw people walking to the left, and I saw that person walking across. So, the people in the middle were stuck, so they couldn’t communicate, couldn’t breathe,” Song Shixian told CNN.
Police cordoned off the area, and social media footage showed people lying in the street and on stretchers as first responders provided assistance.
The fire chief said that a total of 848 emergency response forces were dispatched, including 364 firefighters and 400 police officers.
South Korean President Yoon Seol-yeol sent a disaster relief medical team to the scene of the Halloween event, the presidential palace said.
Presidential spokesman Lee Jae-myung said at the briefing that the president also ordered authorities to secure emergency beds in nearby hospitals and implement swift rescue operations and treatment.
Yin is holding an emergency meeting on the matter, the office said in a statement.