Mourners pay tribute near the scene of a stampede in Seoul Mourners pay tribute near the scene of a stampede in Seoul 

South Korea: Pope prays for people killed in crush at Halloween event

Pope Francis expresses his sorrow for the over 150 people killed at a Halloween street party in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, as the country’s Catholic Bishops call for a thorough investigation into the causes.

By Alastair Wanklyn & Devin Watkins

At least 153 people are dead and another 82 are injured after being crushed and trampled at a Halloween street party in Seoul, most of whom were young people who suffocated to death.

Speaking on Sunday at the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the tragedy in the South Korean capital.

“Let us pray to the Risen Lord for all those—mostly young people—who died last night in Seoul from the tragic consequences of a sudden crowd stampede.”

‘Preventable’ tragedy

Video posted to social media from Saturday night’s tragedy showed people crying out from within a crowd.

A few people were seen grasping at walls, trying to lift themselves out of the crush. When some people fell, others walked over them.

The disaster was not apparent at first. Loud music continued playing as bodies lay on the road. It happened in the nightclub district of Itaewon in Seoul. The victims were mostly young people.

The head of the local fire department said the victims had been attending a Halloween gathering.

It is unclear why the crush occurred, but eyewitnesses said there was little or no crowd control. Revellers kept arriving and pushing into streets that were already full.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol called it a “tragedy that should not have happened.” He said South Koreans will mark a week of mourning.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visits the site of Saturday's stampede
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visits the site of Saturday's stampede

Bishops’ call for investigation

In a written statement, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea said South Koreans must “break the cycle of injustice and irresponsibility that has become a common practice in this society.”

“To do that, we must first be faithful to our respective roles,” the Bishops said. “Authorities must thoroughly examine the cause and process of this tragedy, and ensure that irresponsibility and oblivion are not repeated.”

The bishops added that it is important to ensure there are “no further sacrifices” from people, especially young people.

“Human life and dignity are the most precious values, and nothing in our society can take precedence over it.”

The death toll is the worst in South Korea since the sinking of an overloaded ferry eight years ago.

In that disaster, 304 people died, many of them school children. But it led to a tightening of maritime transport regulations.

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30 October 2022, 12:22