Hundreds of abandoned shoes and lost items laid out in neat rows are awaiting survivors and the families of victims in a sports centre in Seoul — a chilling reminder of South Korea’s deadliest crowd surge in history.
Just days before, rescuers were bringing the bodies of Halloween revellers who died in a tragic stampede to the Wonhyoro sports centre. Now, the gym has been set up as a lost-and-found centre for the hundreds of items that were left behind in the deadly confusion.
Police assembled hundreds of pairs of crumpled tennis shoes, loafers and Chuck Taylors in the aftermath of the crush, which experts say reflects the force of a crowd surge that stripped footwear from the feet of victims.
In total, around 1.5 tons of personal objects were left behind by victims and survivors of the tragedy.
The crush occurred on Saturday night in the nightlife district of Itaewon, where tens of thousands of partygoers, many in costume, gathered for Halloween celebrations. It’s still unclear what caused the crowd to surge, but South Korean officials say throngs of people got jammed in a narrow, downhill alley.
Survivors of the deadly crush were seen carrying the wounded and dead as people administered CPR to victims on the pavement. Dozens of lifeless bodies covered in blankets were laid out in rows in the aftermath.
Most of the victims were women and about 80 per cent of the dead were in their 20s and 30s, but at least four were teenagers.
Some 250 pairs of shoes at the gym are part of a huge collection of abandoned items found in Itaewon following the tragedy. There are also hundreds of pieces of clothing, including coats and movie character costumes, as well as handbags, smartphones, Bluetooth earpieces and a few passports, including at least one belonging to a U.S. citizen.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 156 people were confirmed dead and 151 were being treated for injuries, with 29 of them in critical condition. Officials say 26 of the dead were foreign nationals, including five Iranians, four Chinese, four Russians, two Americans and two Japanese citizens.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed that one Canadian was among the injured.
The gym was opened on Monday for people to claim their lost items, but a police officer told Reuters that few have come so far.
— With files from The Associated Press