TL;DR – The most sobering fact is that the Itaewon crush was something that could have totally happened to any one of us.
Over the last few days, you must have read the heart-wrenching reports or watched morbid videos about the crowd crush at Itaewon in Seoul that has killed more than 150 people.
Most of the victims were reported to be in their 20s. There has been numerous reports on the tragedy, from the South Korean authorities apologising for inadequate crowd control, to experts dishing out advice on what to do if one were in the situation.
The most sobering fact is that the Itaewon crush was something that could have totally happened to any one of us.
Just think about all of the events and festivals that we have been to, even at home in Singapore – New Year Countdowns, Winter Wonderland, Artbox, Chatuchak Markets, Concerts, etc.
So many times, we have groaned about having to pay for tickets to visit a public area that would otherwise have been free (eg. Winter Wonderland). Or how some routes are one-way only (eg. New Year Countdown) and how we need to walk so much more to loop back, or how it’s inconvenient that some roads are closed off for vehicles.
All these times, we’ve never really understood the severity of excessive crowding and the purpose of having event control measures.
The importance and need for event control
Unbeknownst to many (myself included) and everyone else who takes all these proper planning done by the relevant government bodies for granted, did you know that in Singapore, all event organisers are required to submit to the Police a Notice of Intention to Organise an Event should the crowd size be expected to exceed a certain number at any time during the event?
According to the Public Order Act 2017, the Notice of Intention to Organise an Event must be submitted no less than 28 days before the event if the event organisers expect the number of people participating in or attending the event to exceed 5,000 people for public events, and 10,000 people for private events at any time during the event.
Upon receiving the Notice, the Police will assess the information provided and inform the event organiser whether the event is declared to be a Special Event and work with the event organiser to implement appropriate security measures for the event.
On top of ensuring event areas are cordoned off to prevent public order incidents (like stampedes) from happening, it is also to ensure that in event of terrorist attacks, there are alternative routes for people to run off to.
Who would have known that a night of celebration would have turned so deadly? Itaewon is a popular location – one that perhaps many of us have visited, and have planned to visit, or have become familiar with through k-dramas. It could very well have been us in the crowd, soaking in the festives.
Besides, Halloween (or any other festives for that matter) is an annual event. It’s not like a new mall that we can go back to when the novelty has worn off other people. If it were me, honestly, would I have turned back just because of a crowd? Probably not. Or like some of the victims, we might have tried to get out too late.
And all of these is perhaps why many of us are still in shock and disbelief – the sheer fact that it could have been us.