More than 140 people were killed Saturday and some 150 were injured in a horrific stampede in central Seoul when a large crowd celebrating Halloween crammed into a narrow street, officials said.
Photos from the scene showed scores of bodies spread on the pavement covered by bed sheets and emergency workers dressed in orange vests loading even more bodies on stretchers into ambulances.
The stampede took place near the Hamilton Hotel in the nightlife district of Itaewon where a large number of people entered a narrow alley near the hotel.
Fire Department official Choi Seong-beom said the stampede occurred around 10:00 pm (1300 GMT) and many of the victims were trampled to death.
“The high number of casualties was the result of many being trampled during the Halloween event,” Choi said, adding that the death toll could climb.
The Yonhap news agency also quoted an unidentified witness as saying he saw victims crushed to death.
“People were layered on top of others like a tomb. Some were gradually losing their consciousness while some looked dead by that point,” the witness said, according to Yonhap.
President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered officials to dispatch first aid teams and to swiftly secure hospital beds for those affected, the presidential office said.
Meanwhile, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who was on a visit to Europe, decided to return home in the wake of the accident, Yonhap reported, citing city officials.