South Korea mourns after Halloween stampede

STORY: On the streets of South Korea's Seoul on Sunday (October 30), residents lay flowers and search for missing loved ones, after a Halloween stampede killed at least 153 people in a packed nightlife area.

A huge crowd celebrating in the popular Itaewon district surged into an alley on Saturday night, emergency officials said, adding the death toll could rise.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol visited the site of a stampede after declaring a period of national mourning on Sunday.

He expressed condolences to the victims, most of whom were in their 20s.

It was the first Halloween event in Seoul in three years to be virtually free of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing.

Many of the partygoers were wearing masks and Halloween costumes.

Nathan Taverniti witnessed the stampede:

“There were so many people… and I had to turn around and I told the crowd you can’t come this way, people are dying, because I already knew how bad it was, and people were being so rude. And I had to tell them you cannot come this way... and it took so long for emergency services to arrive.”

Community centers have become makeshift facilities for missing persons as families and friends desperately sought word of loved ones.

As of midday, the Interior Ministry said at least 90% of the victims had been identified, with delays affecting some foreign nationals and teenagers who did not yet have identification cards.

The disaster is the country's deadliest since a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people, mainly high school students.