SEOUL — By 8 p.m. on Saturday, the throngs of people were already too large for the narrow alley packed with bars.
There was almost no crowd control, said Nuhyin Ahmed, 32, who along with several friends tried to get through to join Halloween revelers in the alley next to the Hamilton Hotel in the Itaewon nightlife district. They gave up after 20 minutes and went down a different alleyway.
But even there, Mr. Ahmed said, there was minimal police presence, perhaps four officers trying to guide the mass of people pouring in. Mr. Ahmed, a tech worker from India, and his friends ended up back on the main street, where he said the crowd felt like a wave, with forces pushing him back and forth.
“I didn’t know where it was coming from, backwards or front or the middle; it was like a tsunami wave,” he said. “I mostly heard the screams of women,” he said, adding that it was hard to understand that what was happening was fatal because of the loud music and the huge number of people.
More than 150 people died in the crush, with female victims far outnumbering men, officials said Sunday. Dozens more were injured.
Mr. Ahmed, who had attended previous Halloween festivities in Itaewon, said he was not surprised that the alley next to the Hamilton Hotel was the site of the worst of the crush. It was a popular place for people to push up to for photos in their costumes to post on social media.
Last year, though crowds were lighter, he said, several police were monitoring and controlling the entrance to the alley next to the Hamilton Hotel and shut it down around midnight.
“If those police had been there this year, maybe no one would have died,” he said. “There was absolutely no crowd control.”
“The worst part was as people were giving CPR and dying, the clubs were still going and they ran until 4 a.m.,” he said.
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