Horrifying images emerged from South Korea this weekend, when at least 153 were killed during a stampede that, as Reuters reported, unfolded during packed Halloween celebrations in the capital city of Seoul.
The chaotic scene occurred in the Itaewon district, known for its bustling nightlife. In addition to the aforementioned fatalities, scores of individuals were left injured, some seriously, according to the U.K. Independent.
Reports indicate that the crowds on hand Saturday night were particularly large due to the fact that it was the first time the Halloween event had been held in three years, something which was possible due to the government's decision to lift pandemic-related restrictions and social distancing requirements.
As Reuters noted, witnesses recounted that the crowd began to swell and grow unruly as the night grew later, with the deadly surge ultimately taking place at around 10:20 p.m.
One eyewitness, 21-year-old Moon Ju-young, revealed that the danger signs were present in the congested alleyways in advance of the stampede, declaring, "It was at least more than 10 times crowded than usual."
Emergency authorities explained that as more and more people crowded into one particular alley – which was already at capacity – those already at the top of the street began to fall, causing a domino effect that sent revelers toppling onto and crushing others beneath.
Tragic scenes of a makeshift morgue and bodies being carried away from the district began appearing on social media, illustrating the severity of the event into which South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has since pledged a full investigation, as the Independent noted.
President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a nationwide period of mourning in the aftermath of the event, and he also declared the Itaewon district a disaster zone, as Reuters noted separately.
Nathan Taverniti, an Australian national who survived the harrowing incident, took to TikTok and articulated the horror of what he saw, including the death of his 23-year-old friend, Grace Rached, and he blamed the outcome on inadequate preparation on the part of local public safety officials.
"I was there when she said she couldn't breathe," Taverniti said of Rached. "It was a slow, agonizing crush. This crush was not caused by drunk people. It was lack of planning, police force and emergency services," he added.
Among those who perished in the melee was well-known South Korean actor Lee Ji-han, 24, and, as Fox News reports, two American college students also lost their lives. Steven Blesi, 20, of Kennesaw State University, and Anne Gieske, also 20, of the University of Kentucky, both died when they were caught up in the crush of the crowd.
Expressing sentiments in which all Americans surely join, President Joe Biden offered his and the first lady's condolences to those impacted by the disaster, posting to Twitter Sunday, "Jill and I are devastated to learn that at least two Americans are among so many who lost their lives in Seoul. Our hearts go out to their loved ones in this time of grief, and we continue to pray for the recovery of all who were injured."