South Korea Declares National Mourning After 151 Killed in Halloween Stampede
At least 151 people were killed in a crush on Saturday night when a large crowd celebrating Halloween surged into an alley in the South Korean capital Seoul’s nightlife district, according to emergency officials. According to Choi Sung-beom, head of the Yongsan Fire Station, 65 people were injured in the melee in Seoul’s Itaewon district. Officials said that nineteen of the injured were in critical condition and were receiving emergency treatment, and that the death toll could rise.
On Sunday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol declared a national mourning period and expressed condolences to the victims.
In a statement, he stated, “This is truly tragic.” “A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened occurred last night in the heart of Seoul.”
The nation had lifted COVID restrictions and social segregation, making it the first Halloween celebration in Seoul in three years. In addition to Halloween costumes, many partygoers wore masks.
As the evening wore on, some witnesses claimed that the crowd became more rowdy and agitated. The incident happened around 10:20 p.m. (1320 GMT).
We have a lot of casualties because several people fell during a Halloween festival, Choi said. Numerous victims were found close to a nightclub.
Choi stated that many of the victims were young women in their twenties.
Witnesses described chaotic scenes moments before the stampede, with police on hand in preparation for the Halloween event struggling to keep crowds under control.
Moon Ju-young, 21, said there were clear signs of trouble in the alleys prior to the incident.
It was “at least more than ten times more crowded than usual,” he claimed.
Hundreds of people were crammed into the narrow, sloping alley, immobile and crushed as emergency personnel and police attempted to free them.
All of the fatalities, according to Choi, the fire chief for the Yongsan district, were most likely caused by the crush in the only small alley.
Multiple people who appeared to be unconscious were being treated in a chaotic scene by firefighters and bystanders in another video.
People continued to pour into the narrow alley, which was already packed wall-to-wall, when those at the top of the sloped street fell, sending those below them toppling over others, according to fire officials and witnesses.
Unknown woman, claiming to be the mother of a survivor, claimed that her daughter and others were trapped in the alley for more than an hour before being rescued.
A nearby building reportedly housed a temporary morgue, according to a Reuters witness. The witness claims that four dozen bodies were later moved to a government facility where they would be identified while being transported on wheeled stretchers.
Young South Koreans and foreigners alike frequent the Itaewon neighborhood, which had seen a sharp decline in business over the previous three years due to the pandemic but was packed on Saturday for Halloween.
Park Jung-hoon, 21, told Reuters from the scene that while there were large crowds and fireworks during Christmas, this was many times larger.
The dead included two foreigners, and other victims were taken to nearby hospitals.
Curfews on bars and restaurants, as well as a limit of 10 people for private gatherings, were lifted in April as the COVID pandemic eased. In May, the requirement for outdoor masks was repealed.
Authorities said they were looking into the incident’s exact cause.
The disaster is one of the country’s deadliest since a ferry sinking in 2014 that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.
The Sewol’s sinking and the criticism of the government’s response shocked South Korea and caused widespread introspection about the nation’s safety regulations, which are likely to be updated in the wake of Saturday’s crash.
President Yoon presided over an emergency meeting with senior aides and directed the formation of a task force to secure resources to treat the injured and to launch a thorough investigation into the disaster’s cause.
US Fighter Jets Shoot Down Octagonal Object Near Canadian Border
The Pentagon has reported that US fighter jets have shot down an unidentified flying object in the Midwest, near the Canadian border. The object was flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet and posed no military threat, however, it may have interfered with domestic air traffic. A statement by Pentagon spokesperson, Patrick Ryder, noted that the incident was the latest in a series of similar events, including a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that raised security concerns in North America.
The Pentagon reported that a third unidentified flying object was shot down over North America in just three days, and the fourth in a week. The object was brought down over Lake Huron on the US-Canada border at 2:42 pm local time on February 13th, according to a statement by the Pentagon. The recent activity of defence has been sparked by the appearance of a white balloon that was spotted over the US in late January. The balloon hovered over the country for days, leading the US to suspect it was a Chinese surveillance balloon.
On February 4th, fighter jets brought the balloon down off the coast of South Carolina. The latest object that was shot down appeared to have an octagonal structure, with strings hanging from it but no clear payload, as reported by an official to the press.
The object, detected near military sites in Montana, led to the closure of US airspace by the Pentagon due to its proximity to sensitive sites.
General Glen VanHerck, head of the US Air Force responsible for securing US airspace, informed the media that the military was unable to identify the nature, source, or means of staying aloft for the three recent unidentified objects.
General VanHerck, who is in charge of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command, stated that they referred to the objects as “objects” and not balloons for a specific reason. He added that he wouldn’t exclude any explanation, including the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement.
Legislators are calling for more information regarding the objects that have been shot down. US legislator Debbie Dingell, among other Michigan lawmakers, has stated the need to know the origin, purpose, and reason for the increase in the frequency of these objects.
Heino Klinck, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, believes the government should be more transparent about these incursions. Klinck mentioned that the challenge for the government is to release information without compromising sources and methods, but it is high time for them to say something. The latest object was first detected over Montana on Saturday evening but was initially thought to be an anomaly.
However, it was detected again on Sunday over the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, moving over Lake Huron. US and Canadian authorities restricted airspace over the lake as fighters were scrambled to intercept and identify the object. Meanwhile, Canadian authorities are searching for the wreckage of the object shot down over the Yukon region.
Joe Biden Believed to Have Invited PM Modi for State Visit to US
It has been reported that the President of the United States, Joe Biden, has extended an invitation to the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, for a state visit this summer. The invitation has been accepted in principle, and both sides are now working on scheduling a mutually convenient date. Currently, the visit is in the early stages of logistical planning.
India is set to host a series of events in the lead-up to the G-20 summit in September. This includes several events aimed at showcasing the country’s progress and achievements. Given the significance of the G-20, the state visit by President Biden is expected to be a significant event that will highlight the strong partnership between the two countries.
The visit will also provide an opportunity for the two leaders to engage in discussions on a range of important issues, including trade, investment, and regional security. India and the United States share a strong relationship, built on shared values and mutual interests. The state visit will further strengthen this relationship and deepen the ties between the two nations.
The visit is expected to generate significant media coverage and will likely be seen as a significant event in the region. Both sides are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to highlight their respective achievements and to set the tone for future cooperation.
The state visit is expected to last for a minimum of a couple of days and will involve several key events such as a joint address to the US Congress and a state dinner at the White House. Prime Minister Modi has a busy schedule ahead, including participation in the G-20 summit, domestic and international commitments, and campaigning for state assembly elections later in the year.
Sources, who remain unnamed due to the sensitive nature of the matter and restrictions on discussing it publicly, have not disclosed the timing and messenger of President Biden’s invitation to Prime Minister Modi. Biden previously hosted French President Emmanuel Macron for his first state dinner in December.
A senior official from the Biden administration has stated that the President values the partnership between India and the United States, which is seen as critical for addressing global challenges and advancing shared interests.
In conclusion, the state visit by President Biden to India this summer is expected to be a significant event that will reinforce the strong partnership between the two countries and deepen the ties between their people. Both sides are working to ensure that the visit is a success and will contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of both nations.
US Plans to End Public Health Emergency for Covid in May
The Biden administration has announced its plan to end the coronavirus public health emergency in May, signaling a shift in the perception of the pandemic’s severity. The expiration of the emergency will bring both symbolic and practical changes, as millions of Americans have received free Covid tests, treatments and vaccines that may not be available without cost after the emergency ends.
The White House intends to keep the emergency in place for a few more months to provide adequate time for hospitals, health care providers, and health officials to prepare for the changes that will come with its end.
Although Covid-19 is still taking an average of over 500 lives daily in the US, about double the number of deaths during a severe flu season, the pandemic is no longer disrupting daily life to the same extent it once did. This is due, in part, to the increasing number of people who have received vaccinations or have developed some level of protection from prior infections.
The White House is committed to an orderly transition out of the public health emergency. Additionally, the administration intends to let a separate declaration of a national emergency expire on the same day, May 11.
The White House has warned against the sudden end of the emergency declarations, stating that it could result in widespread chaos and uncertainty across the healthcare system. The statement highlights the potential impact on states, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and most importantly, millions of Americans.
The White House emphasized the importance of an orderly transition to minimize disruption to the healthcare system and to ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are addressed. The message serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic and the need for continued vigilance and preparation to manage its impact on public health and the healthcare system.
The White House statement was released prior to a planned vote in the House on a bill named the “Pandemic Is Over Act,” which aims to end the public health emergency immediately. The Republican-led House is scheduled to discuss several pandemic-related measures this week. The White House’s statement serves as a response to the proposed bill, as well as another bill aimed at ending the national emergency.
The disagreement between the White House and House Republicans indicates a likely prolonged political dispute over the administration’s handling of the pandemic. Republicans aim to criticize the Biden administration for excessive spending in response to the coronavirus crisis. Representative Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana and the Majority Leader, has called on the Biden administration to end the emergency declaration immediately instead of waiting until May 11. Scalise believes that the Biden administration has used the Covid crisis as a cover to waste taxpayer dollars on unrelated policies.
However, the White House claims that it is the federal Covid policies, including free tests, treatments, and vaccines, that have improved the control of the pandemic. The officials have reported that Covid was the third leading cause of death from 2020 to mid-2022, but is no longer among the top five killers.
In conclusion, the decision to end the coronavirus public health emergency marks a significant turning point in the pandemic, reflecting the administration’s confidence in the progress made in controlling its spread. However, it also brings with it the challenge of ensuring a smooth transition that addresses the impact of the emergency on the healthcare system and its stakeholders.
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