Xi sends condolences to ROK leader over stampede

Rescue workers try to help injured people on Sunday near the scene of a stampede in Seoul, South Korea. At least 153 people, including four Chinese nationals, were killed in the tragedy, which occurred on Saturday night when a huge crowd surged into a narrow downhill alley in Seoul's Itaewon district during Halloween festivities. (LEE JIN-MAN / AP)

President Xi Jinping sent a message of condolence on Sunday to Yoon Suk-yeol, president of the Republic of Korea, over a deadly stampede in Seoul's Itaewon district that killed at least 153 people, including four Chinese nationals, during Halloween celebrations.

In his message, Xi said he was shocked to learn about the stampede that caused major casualties and injuries.

On behalf of the Chinese government and Chinese people, Xi expressed deep condolences over the deaths of the victims and sincere sympathies to the injured and families of the bereaved.

It was unfortunate that several Chinese nationals were injured or killed during the accident, Xi said, expressing his hope that the ROK side will spare no effort to treat the injured and appropriately deal with follow-up issues.

Also on Sunday, Premier Li Keqiang sent a message of condolence to ROK Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.

In the country's worst disaster in years, Saturday's stampede — in which over 130 people were also injured — happened as around 100,000 people celebrated Halloween in Seoul's Itaewon nightlife area.

According to police, the accident happened around 10:30 pm on Saturday when people were trapped and crushed as the crowd surged into a narrow alley.

Videos and pictures on social media showed people struggling to breathe, lying in the streets and on stretchers. In others, bodies were lined up along the street covered in blankets or were being carried to ambulances.

The Chinese embassy in the ROK confirmed on Sunday that four Chinese nationals had been killed in the stampede. Other foreign victims included people from Iran, Norway, Uzbekistan and Japan.

The embassy said it immediately activated an emergency response mechanism, contacted the ROK side overnight to learn about the cause of the accident and the nationalities of the victims, and paid close attention to the internet and social media platforms to see if any Chinese nationals were seeking help.

The Chinese embassy has offered condolences and will provide assistance to the families of the deceased, it added.

On Sunday, ROK President Yoon declared a period of national mourning that will last until Saturday, while sending his condolences to families of the victims. He called for officials to review the safety of sites for festivities and ensure swift treatment for the injured.

During the mourning period, all public institutions and diplomatic offices of the ROK will fly flags at half-staff, and civil servants and employees of public institutions will wear ribbons to express their condolences, local authorities said.

Contact the writers at wangxu@chinadaily.com.cn