12:35 p.m. ET, October 30, 2022
Officials face questions in wake of Itaewon tragedy
As a stunned and grieving South Korea grapples with a tragedy that killed at least 153 people, questions are emerging
about how such a disaster could have unfolded in a popular area where people are known to gather.
It’s hard to pinpoint what might have triggered the crush – but authorities “would have anticipated high numbers … before Saturday night,” said Juliette Kayyem, a disaster management expert and national security analyst for CNN.
“There is a responsibility on the part of the authorities to be monitoring crowd volume in real time, so they can sense the need to get people out,” she added.
Suah Cho, 23, was caught up in the crowd but managed to escape into a building along the alley. When asked whether she had seen any officials trying to limit the number of people entering the alley, she replied: “Before the incident, not at all.”
Another eyewitness described the situation getting “worse and worse,” saying they could hear “people asking for help for other people, because there were not enough rescuers that can just handle all that.”
What officials are saying: Lee Sang-min, Minister of the Interior and Safety, said on Sunday that “a considerable number” of police and security forces had been sent to another part of Seoul on Saturday in response to expected protests there.
Meanwhile in Itaewon, the crowd had not been unusually large, he said, so only a “normal” level of security forces had been deployed there.
President Yoon Suk Yeol has vowed to implement new measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again, saying the government would “conduct emergency inspections not only for Halloween events but also for local festivals and thoroughly manage them so they are conducted in an orderly and safe manner.”