Investigators continued to piece together the exact chain of events that killed at least 151 people on Saturday night amid apparent crowds in Seoul’s Itaewon district, but one expert said there may be “no trigger moment.”
Thousands of people celebrated Halloween on the streets of the South Korean capital when the crush happened, many flocking to the nightlife district of Itaewon – an area known for its vibrant nightlife and narrow streets, according to the local fire chief and alleys.
Witnesses said crowded streets and alleys became overcrowded, with people gathering outside bars, pubs and restaurants.
At some point, many appeared to be trying to flee the area – although officials said there were no gas leaks or fires at the scene when they received the first emergency call at 10:24pm.
CNN’s disaster management expert and national security analyst Juliette Kayyem said the city’s population density may have played a role in the tragedy.
Kayyem said the combination of narrow streets and cul-de-sacs “certainly can be deadly” in a panic situation, and because people in Seoul are used to crowds, they may not see danger.
“People in Seoul are so used to crowded spaces that they may not be completely shocked by crowded streets.”
Panic is often a factor in such tragedies, she said, and “when it happens and you have nowhere to go, you’re likely to be overwhelmed.”
However, she added that when this panic occurs, “a lot of times, there is no trigger moment.”
Still, she said, while it was difficult to pinpoint what triggered the crushing authorities “expect a large number by Saturday night…”
“The onus is on the authorities to monitor crowd numbers in real time so they can feel the need to let people go,” Kayyem said.