SEOUL: At least 120 people were killed Saturday and some 100 were injured in a stampede in central Seoul when thousands crowded into narrow streets to celebrate Halloween, officials said. Fire Department official Choi Seong-beom said the stampede took place around 10:22 pm (1322 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. Officials had said earlier that 50 people were in cardiac arrest and that more than 140 ambulances were dispatched to the scene to aid the victims. The district of Itaewon is a popular destination for people celebrating Halloween in the South Korean capital.

President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered officials to dispatch first aid teams and to swiftly secure hospital beds for those affected, the presidential office said. Video footage from the scene of the crush showed people performing emergency first aid on several victims who appeared to be prone on the pavement, while rescue workers rushed to help others.

Yellow-jacketed policemen formed a cordon around the site of the crush, with rescue officials loading victims - some of whom were covered with blankets - into ambulances. Around two dozen people were entirely covered by makeshift blankets on the roadside. Emergency workers carried them off on wheeled stretchers to waiting ambulances. This year's Halloween is the first celebration of the event since the pandemic broke out in 2020 at which South Koreans have not been mandated to wear face masks outdoors. - AFP