30 October 2022

World leaders express sadness after Seoul stampede disaster

30 October 2022

World leaders have expressed sadness and condolences after at least 151 people were killed in a crowd surge in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday night.

The tragedy happened in the capital’s Itaewon district during Halloween festivities when a huge crowd surged into a narrow downhill alley. At least 82 other people were injured in the country’s deadliest accident in years.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden sent their “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims.

“We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea and wish for a quick recovery to all those who were injured,” said President Biden in a tweet. “The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time.”

Similarly, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described the news from Seoul as “horrific”.

“All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very distressing time,” he wrote on Twitter.

Itaewon’s international character was shaped by its proximity to a US military garrison nearby. The area is still home to restaurants, bars and other businesses catering to the American community in Seoul.

US Forces Korea, which commands the sizable American military presence in the country, expressed its condolences in a Facebook post.

“The Itaewon community has opened its arms to us for many years and is part of the reason our Alliance is so strong,” the command said, writing in English and Korean. “During this time of grief, we will be there for you just as you have been there for us.”

Leaders from countries including Japan, France, China and Singapore reacted with shock and sadness over the tragedy.

“I’m hugely shocked and deeply saddened by the extremely tragic accident in Itaewon, Seoul, that took many precious lives, including those of young people with their future ahead of them,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a tweet.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron – who tweeted in both French and in Korean – offered support to Seoul residents and South Korea.

“France is with you,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed similar sentiments on Twitter, sending his “deepest condolences” to the people of South Korea “and wishing a fast and full recovery to those who were injured”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also sent condolences to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, expressing condolences and shock over the stampede, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry. He also expressed condolences to the victims and their families.

Hong Kong leader John Lee said in a statement on Facebook that he was saddened by the accident in Seoul.

“I express profound sorrow over the passing of the victims, extend my deepest condolences to their families and wish for a speedy recovery to all those who were injured,” he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the “tragic events in Seoul come as a shock to all of us”.

“Our thoughts are with the numerous victims and their families,” he tweeted. “This is a sad day for South Korea. Germany stands by their side.”

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said she was “heartbroken” by the tragic news from Seoul.

“They were looking for a night of lighthearted Halloween festivities but instead found real horror and death,” she said. “My thoughts are with the victims, their friends and families, and those who still fear for their loved ones.”

Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob described the loss of lives as “tragic” and said it was “hard to imagine” the trauma and grief experienced by the families, loved ones and friends of those affected.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of South Korea during this difficult time, and I wish a quick and full recovery to all those who are injured,” she said.

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