The tragedy that left at least 156 people dead in central Seoul occurred when thousands of Halloween revelers jammed into a narrow alley fell over in masses, piling up on top of each other around 10:15 p.m. on Saturday.
On that fateful night, a total of 11 emergency calls had been made to local police warning explicitly of deadly crowding in Itaewon, police records show.
The following are translated excerpts from the desperate calls made to the police as early as nearly four hours before the disaster.
1. 6:34 p.m.
“It’s a narrow alley. The people standing in line for the club, the people coming up from the Itaewon Station, and the people exiting the streets (above) are all tangled up. They might be crushed to death. I think (the police) should control the people at the entrance (of the alley).”
2. 8:09 p.m.
“This is Itaewon, and there are so many people here, falling, hurting themselves. It’s chaos. Someone should organize this.”
3. 8:33 p.m.
“People are falling down on the street, it’s too dangerous. I think an accident might happen. It’s out of control. I think something could go seriously wrong.”
4. 8:53 p.m.
“There are so many people here, they’re almost being crushed to death. This is total chaos.”
5. 9:00 p.m.
“So many people are here. I think we’re just moments away from a major disaster, they’re all jammed. I think you need to come here and control the situation.”
6. 9:02 p.m.
“Hi, this is Itaewon street. People are all being pushed at the streets. I think something could really go wrong. Please do something. I think someone could really die here.
7. 9:07 p.m.
“Please track (my) location here. Please come here and do (indistinguishable). One way, please control the crowd so people can go one way.”
8. 9:10 p.m.
Caller: “Hello, this is Itaewon, Itaewon near (indistinguishable). I think everyone here will be crushed to death.”
Police: “There are too many people?”
Caller: “They can get crushed to death. We’re at a festival. How do I explain this ... This is Halloween, and things are really serious. The kids inside are all getting crushed to death.”
Police: “Where are you?”
Caller: Halloween, Halloween festival, Itaewon Station.
Police: “Please tell me the name of the store.”
Caller: “It’s not just some store. It’s the entire street.”
9. 9:51 p.m.
“Hello, we’re in front of the Itaewon 108 hip hop club. There’s too many people here, I think you need to come out here and control them. Can you come as soon as possible? I think it’s really dangerous.”
10. 10 p.m.
“Ah f---, I’m reporting a case here. You know Itaewon is crowded, right? And people are jeez, coming down the alley and pushing. I think we’ll be crushed to death. Please control the crowd here.”
11. 10:11 p.m.
Caller: “I think we’ll be crushed to death here. It’s a disaster.”
Police: “Are you near Itaewon Station?”
Caller: “Ah...(screaming), the backstreets of Itaewon, the backstreets.”
Police: “We’re on our way.”