At least 153 people were killed and 82 injured after being crushed into a crowd during Halloween celebrations in Seoul, South Korean officials said, as the death toll in the tragedy continued to rise.
The National Fire Agency said most of the victims were in their 20s. ABC News confirmed that two Americans were among the 19 foreigners who died.
Among the victims, the head of the school, Eli Capiloto, He said in a statement on Sunday.
“Ann, a junior nursing student from northern Kentucky, has been studying in South Korea this semester with an educational program abroad. We have two other students and a faculty member there this semester as well. They have been contacted and they are safe,” Capiloto said. .
“We have been in contact with Anne’s family and will offer whatever support we can – now and in the coming days – as they deal with this unspeakable loss,” he added. “We will be there for those in our community who knew and loved Ann. We also have approximately 80 South Korean students in the UK – members of our community – who will need our support.”
Stephen Plessy, 20, of Georgia, has also been identified as one of the victims.
His father, Steve Plessy, told ABC News that “the world is a darker place without Stephen.”
“Last night we received a call that no parent should ever receive,” Steve Plessy said in a statement. “Our dear son Stephen passed away in this terrible event in South Korea while he was studying abroad for a semester. We are shocked and ask for your prayers.”
Kennesaw State University, where Stephen Plessy was also a student issued a statement, saying he was an international business major and one of 11 students from the university in South Korea as part of a study abroad program. King Saud University said the safety of other students had been reported.
“On behalf of the entire Kennesaw State community, our thoughts and prayers go out to Stephen’s family and friends as they mourn this incomprehensible loss,” said President Cathy Schweig. “We have been in touch with Stephen’s family and have provided them with all available university resources.”
Officials said during an earlier update that more deaths were feared in the stampede, when the death toll reached 120 dead and 100 wounded.
Many of the victims were taken to local hospitals in cardiac arrest after emergency CPR, the agency said.
The victims occurred on Saturday evening in the Itaewon entertainment district, when a large crowd rushed forward into the narrow alleys of the area, according to witnesses.
Officials said the accident was first reported around 10:20 p.m. local time. It took some time for the rescue crews to respond due to the large crowds.
Over 100,000 people gathered for Halloween parties in the area known as nightclubs. The area has bars located along the narrow back alleys that line the main street. People got stuck in these curved and skewed alleys, according to eyewitnesses.
Video from the scene showed a major emergency and police response in the area as a crowd of people, some in uniform, were still gathered at the scene. CPR can be seen being performed on the street.
Officials said the cause of the increased crowds was under investigation.
“It just got so scary.”
Janelle Storey, an American who has lived in South Korea since 2016, told ABC News that the area is usually crowded, especially around Halloween. But this was “another level”.
“It’s the first time since the pandemic that we’ve actually just been able to get out,” she said. “Itaewon is famous for being really crowded, but that was just a level I hadn’t seen before.”
Story and her friend were jumping at the bar when she began filming the crowd around 10:30 p.m., she said.
“That’s when I saw in front of me this mass of people who like to run and push and like to move quickly and then they scream and they like to panic,” she said. “We were kind of standing up and slowly. Then it happened. Bam! That wall of people came towards us.”
She continued, “I stopped filming because it became very scary.”
Storey said she heard other passersby indicate that people were passing out. When they tried to head to the subway station, they saw fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars, before returning safely home.
“I can’t believe this happened,” she said. “I don’t know how.” “It just feels weird.”
The United States offered its support to South Korea in the wake of the tragedy.
“The reports out of Seoul are heartbreaking,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. He said on Twitter. “We think of all those who have lost loved ones and hope for a speedy recovery for those injured. The United States stands ready to provide the Republic of Korea with whatever support it needs.”
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden offered their “deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in Seoul.”
“We grieve for the people of the Republic of Korea and send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured,” the president said in a statement. “The alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or vibrant – and the relations between our peoples are stronger than ever. The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time.”
ABC News’ Nicholas Cerrone contributed to this report.
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