Seoul distress calls show four hours of mayhem, police inaction

SEOUL –  South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo vowed on Wednesday to hold police accountable for Seoul’s deadly Halloween crowd surge, after a log of emergency calls showed authorities were slow to respond.

The crush in the narrow alleyways of the Itaewon entertainment district on Saturday killed 156 people, mostly costumed young party-goers looking for a night of post-pandemic fun.

The first emergency call was made at 6:34 pm, a nervous caller warning that police needed to control the crowd before the crush of people turned deadly.

What follows is a condensed transcript, obtained by AFP, of about a dozen of those increasingly desperate calls to police:

6:34 pm (0934 GMT)

“This is getting really nervous with people coming up and down this alleyway. People can’t walk down here but people keep coming up. I feel like people are going to get crushed to death. I barely got out of it. I think you need to control the situation.” 

8:09 pm

“There are too many people here being pushed, trampled, hurt. It’s chaotic. You need to control this.”

8:33 pm

“People are trampled on the streets here. This is getting dangerous … There’s no control and a three-way road is all blocked. I have a video shot. Can I send it to you?

8:53 pm

“People are almost getting crushed to death … There are too many people … This is not a prank call.”

9:00 pm

“Situation here is on the verge of falling into a major accident with too many people. You need to come to put it under control.” 

9:02 pm

“People are being pushed hard here and everyone is in panic … Please do something about making space here. I think people are going to die here.”

9:07 pm

“I am at the risk of being crushed to death with so many people here … I please ask you to direct one-way traffic here.” 

9:10 pm

“Situation here is really serious. People inside the alley are getting pressed so hard … This is not just a store area. The whole alley is (in danger).”

“I got it. We will deploy policemen there,” a police responder told the caller.

9:51 pm 

“There are too many people here. Can you come out here as soon as possible for crowd control?”

10:11 pm

“It looks like  people are getting crushed to death there … total mayhem.” – AFP