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South Korea Halloween crush: Seoul tests crowd safety plan ahead of anniversary

SEOUL: A knot of people jostled and shoved each other on Wednesday (Oct 25) in a narrow alleyway in Seoul, before filing patiently past a barricade of police officers in a crowd control drill held ahead of the one-year anniversary of a deadly Halloween crush.

The exercise, showcasing an AI-backed network of nearly 1,000 closed-circuit TV cameras designed to detect and alert against dangerous crowding, was displayed on banks of large screens watched by officials ready to swing into action.

The effort comes after a crowd surge last year led to a crush in a narrow alley in the Itaewon nightlife district, killing 159 people in a disaster blamed on a lack of preparation and crowd control measures, with early calls for help going unanswered.

This year, officials in the South Korean capital said they would work with police, emergency services and local officials to ensure “not a single person gets hurt” during Halloween celebrations.

“The drill focused on how to ensure the safety of citizens by monitoring the situation in real time with the help of cutting-edge science and technology,” said the city’s mayor, Oh Se-hoon.

The Seoul anniversary has unnerved authorities elsewhere in the run-up to this year’s celebrations.

In Tokyo, foreign tourists and locals have been urged not to gather at the famed Shibuya scramble crossing in the Japanese capital, which had been a popular spot for Halloween revellers to meet up prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Officials have grown fearful of a disastrous crowd crush similar to the one in the Itaewon district in Seoul, South Korea,” Shibuya city officials said in a statement.

The safety campaign has involved a ban on street drinking over the Halloween weekend, while videos posted on social media urge: “On Halloween night, everyone should stay away from Shibuya.”

Related:

Commentary: Fatal crowd crush shows South Korea’s continued disregard for safety

Seoul crowd crush: How tragedy unfolded in Itaewon
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