South Korea’s national police agency has raided local police departments in the capital, Seoul, and the Yongsan district office as it investigates whether official incompetence contributed to a mob wave that killed 156 people in the Itaewon district.
The raids came a day after the agency acknowledged that Seoul police had failed to act for hours despite receiving at least 11 emergency calls from pedestrians warning that a growing crowd of revelers was d ‘Halloween was spiraling out of control before Saturday’s crash in a narrow alley near the Hamilton Hotel. .
The agency said members of its special investigation unit were recovering documents from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and the police station, district office, fire department and other offices. from Yongsan.
Local officials and police question why they didn’t use crowd control measures or enough staff in the bustling nightlife district despite expectations of a crowd of 100,000 following the easing Covid restrictions.
National Police Chief Yoon Hee-keun also acknowledged that his initial investigations revealed that officers did not effectively handle calls informing authorities of the potential danger of the crowd gathering in Itaewon.
Yoon said police have launched an internal investigation into how officers handled emergency calls and other issues, including the on-site response to the influx of crowds in Itaewon that night.
His agency also released transcripts of 11 calls made to the police 112 hotline by pedestrians in Itaewon on Saturday, the first made around 6.30pm, four hours before the crash near the Hamilton Hotel.
The unidentified caller, who was near a store in the alley where the crash happened, pleaded for police to enforce checks in the area because “too many people are going up and down and it’s so scary.”
“People can’t come down but (people) are also pushing and I think (they) could be crushed to death,” the caller said.
In the transcripts of the 11 calls, the callers used the Korean word meaning “crushed to death” 13 times to express their concerns.
South Korea’s interior minister and emergency bureau chief, the mayor of Seoul and the bureau chief of the Yongsan district, which governs Itaewon, all issued public apologies.
On Wednesday, 156 people were confirmed dead and 157 were being treated for injuries after being trampled through crowds in a narrow alley that connects the hotel to a dense row of storefronts.