Itaewon police offices raided following Halloween crowd crush
Itaewon experienced one of the biggest tragedies recently on Halloween when a stampede killed over a hundred people in South Korea.
Investigators are now working on the case of the crowd crush with 156 dead.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, investigators raided eight offices to seize internal reports and documents.
The documents in question refer to public notifications to the emergency hotline number 112.
One of the offices searched was the Yongsan District Police Station, which oversees Itaewon’s nightlife.
Crowd crush took place in Itaewon.
Raids and investigations are ongoing as Korean authorities face public pressure and protests.
Witnesses say there was little to no crowd control during the crush in Itaewon.
Reports indicate that police received advanced warnings.
The Itaewon tragedy in Seoul happened on Saturday.
Witnesses said the crush happened on a narrow stretch of street where huge crowds were gathering on a 13ft wide street.
They said that crowd members could not move or breathe.
Public members reportedly called the police about the overcrowding hours before reports of the first deaths emerged.
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The Wednesday raid
A special investigation unit carried out the raids on Wednesday.
The National Police Services Agency (NPA) formed the unit the day before.
It is now responsible for investigating the disaster.
According to the NPA, they suspended the head of the Yongsan Police Station, one of the closest police stations.
“Chief Lee Im-jae cannot carry out his normal duties given the situation,” the NPA announced.
They also noted that they would find his successor later that day.
According to the NPA, the police received at least 11 calls from people in the Itaewon area.
The phone calls raised concerns of a possible crowd crush just four hours before it happened.
The first call came at 6:34 pm from a caller who said: “It looks really dangerous. I fear people might get crushed.”
Less than two hours later, another called and said people were crowding in the narrow street of Itaewon.
The caller said people were falling and getting hurt.
On Tuesday, NPA chief Yoon Hee-keun confessed that police made mistakes in their response.
“There were a number of reports on the police emergency hotline indicating the seriousness of the (situation) just before the accident occurred,” said Hee-keun.
“According to reports, a large crowd gathered before the accident, and police emergency hotline reports were (informed of the danger).”
Chief Yoon Hee-keun described the police response as “inadequate.”
He also said he felt a heavy responsibility as the head of the agency
During Tuesday’s press conference, Chief Yoon Hee-keun announced the creation of the special investigation unit.
He vowed that the unit would be transparent and share the truth with the people.
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Meanwhile, other government bodies admit they were ill-prepared.
The Interior Ministry admitted on Monday that it had no guidelines for crowd management because it was not caused by a single event with a single organizer.
“One of the reasons (for the disaster) was a lack of deep institutional knowledge and consideration for crowd management,” said Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
The prime minister says it still wouldn’t have been effective had there been more police in the area.
“We don’t have a crowd management system.”
Halloween crush investigators raid police stations across Seoul