Disasters & Accidents

Whereabouts of police officers during Seoul tragedy under probe

Seoul, Nov 4 (EFE).- The South Korean National Police Agency began investigating Friday the whereabouts of two police officers at the local and metropolitan level when a stampede claimed more than 150 lives over the weekend in the Halloween celebrations in Seoul.

The two officials, temporarily suspended from their posts, have already been identified as key figures in the special investigation that opened this week to clarify the chain of errors in the police response during the tragedy.

They are the police chief of the Yongsan district (to which the Itaewon neighborhood, where the tragedy occurred), Lee Im-jae, and the officer who was in charge that day of monitoring the situation at the Metropolitan Police Agency of Seoul Ryu Mi-jin.

Lee is known to have been in charge of response operations for various demonstrations in the district since Saturday morning, but it is unknown where he and Ryu were during the hour before the Itaewon event.

Apparently neither of them could be reached during the hour before 10:15 p.m. local time, when people began to fall and pile up in a narrow alley in the aforementioned neighborhood, where at least 100,000 people were celebrating Halloween.

Although Lee arrived at the scene shortly after that time, it is also being investigated why he took until 11:34 p.m. to report the situation to Seoul Metropolitan Police Chief Kim Kwang-ho.

In turn, Ryu, who should have been in charge of the emergency situations center, was apparently away from work around 10:15 p.m., and did not report the situation to Kim until 11:39 p.m.

This center is basic to connect the different police stations with the agency to activate responses in case of an emergency.

It is also known that a squad of riot police was deployed on standby near Itaewon on the night of the accident, but was not mobilized.

The South Korean police have received harsh criticism this week after it was learned that the emergency services received eleven calls from about four hours before the tragedy occurred and did not act.

After the tragedy, the central government has also admitted the absence of protocols in the Asian country to avoid disaster in large events that do not have an organizer and promised that it will promote regulatory changes. EFE


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