World leaders grieve deadly Halloween crowd surge in Seoul

HONG KONG (AP) — World leaders expressed sadness and condolences after at least 151 people were killed in a crowd surge Saturday night in Seoul, South Korea.

The tragedy occurred in Seoul’s Itaewon district during Halloween festivities when a huge crowd surged into a narrow downhill alley. At least 82 others were injured in the South Korea’s deadliest accident in years.

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden sent their “deepest condolences” to the families of the deceased.

“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” on Twitter.

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

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

U.S. 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.”

Pope Francis invited the crowd in St. Peter’s Square to pray for the victims.

“We pray the Risen Lord also for those — especially young people — who died last night in Seoul, due to the tragic consequences of a sudden crush,” Francis said after his Sunday’s Angelus prayer.

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

“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.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted: “Our thoughts are with the victims of the tragedy that occurred in Seoul and with their families. Italy is close to the Korean people at this time of great pain and deep sadness.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping also sent his condolences to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, expressing shock over the accident in Seoul, according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Hong Kong leader John Lee, in a statement on Facebook, hoped for swift recoveries for those injured in the crush.

“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,” said Lee.

Prince William and his wife Kate also sent a message of condolence. The heir to the British throne said on social media: “Catherine and I send all our love and prayers to the parents, families and loved ones of those tragically lost in Seoul yesterday evening.”

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,” said Baerbock. “My thoughts are with the victims, their friends and families, and those who still fear for their loved ones.”

“This is a sad day for South Korea. Germany stands by their side,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a tweet.

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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Associated Press journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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