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Catholic bishops of Korea call for probe into Halloween stampede that killed 153 people

The bishops said South Koreans should “break the cycle of injustice and irresponsibility that has become a common practice in this society”

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the Halloween stampede in Seoul that killed at least 150 people on Saturday.

“Authorities must thoroughly examine the cause and process of this tragedy, and ensure that irresponsibility and oblivion are not repeated,” read a statement issued by the Church leaders on Sunday, October 31.

The bishops said it is important to ensure that there are “no further sacrifices” from people, especially young people.

“Human life and dignity are the most precious values, and nothing in our society can take precedence over it,” read the statement.

The bishops said South Koreans should “break the cycle of injustice and irresponsibility that has become a common practice in this society.”

“To do that, we must first be faithful to our respective roles,” they said.

Pope Francis expresses solidarity

- Newsletter -

Speaking on Sunday during Angelus, Pope Francis called for prayers for the victims of the tragedy.

“Let us pray to the Risen Lord for all those—mostly young people—who died last night in Seoul from the tragic consequences of a sudden crowd stampede,” said the pontiff.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the pope’s envoy to the just-concluded meeting of bishops in Asia, also expressed his solidarity with the victims and those affected by a storm in the Philippines.

“We pray in a particular way for the victims of the stampede that happened in Korea yesterday,” said the cardinal in his homily during Mass at the Assumption cathedral in Bangkok on Sunday.

On Sunday, South Korea’s president vowed a thorough investigation into one of the country’s worst-ever disasters.

The crowd surge and crush took place in the capital’s popular central Itaewon district, where estimates suggest as many as 100,000 people — mostly in their teens and 20s — went to celebrate Halloween Saturday night.

Police crime scene investigators inspect the alley in which a Halloween stampede took place in the neighborhood of Itaewon in Seoul on October 30, 2022. More than 140 people were killed on October 29 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. (Photo by Anthony Wallace / AFP)

Day of mourning

President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a period of national mourning Sunday, telling the country in a televised address that “a tragedy and disaster occurred that should not have happened.”

He said the government “will thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident and make fundamental improvements to ensure the same accident does not occur again.”

Witnesses described being trapped in a narrow, sloping alleyway, and scrambling to get out of the suffocating crowd as people piled on top of one another.

The interior ministry said 153 people had died, including 20 foreigners, in the stampede, which occurred around 10 p.m. local time.

Most of the victims were young women in their 20s, it said, adding that 133 people were injured. An official from the defense ministry said three military personnel were among the dead.

Authorities also said they had received more than 2,600 reports of people missing.

The interior ministry said the 20 foreigners killed included people from the United States, Uzbekistan, Austria, Norway, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Sri Lanka.

The United States embassy in Seoul confirmed that two US nationals had died. Russia said three of its citizens were killed.

China also confirmed that four of its nationals had died, with President Xi Jinping sending “deep condolences” to Seoul.

President Joe Biden said the United States “stands with” South Korea after the tragedy, while Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he was “hugely shocked and deeply saddened.” – with a report from AFP

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