The organisation that oversees Hong Kong’s nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong has strengthened its liaison with police this Halloween after a fatal crowd crush that occurred during celebration in the South Korean capital on Saturday claimed more than 150 lives.

lan kwai fong Covid
Lan Kwai Fong. Photo: GovHK.

Anthea Cheung, the director of the Lan Kwai Fong Association, said on an RTHK programme on Monday that she was saddened by the tragedy, and that it served as a reminder of the importance of safety during large-scale events.

“Given what happened in Seoul, we have stepped up our liaison with police,” she said.

Cheung added that the association had long implemented effective crowd control measures for major occasions – including Halloween, Christmas and New Years’ Eve – such as blocking off roads to cars and designating streets as one-way.

Emergency passages and first-aid stations were also set up at such events, according to Cheung. “Ultimately, Lan Kwai Fong is narrow. The road is long and sloped,” she said.

At least 154 people died in a crowd crush in Seoul on Saturday night as tens of thousands of partygoers flooded into the streets of popular commercial district Itaewon, the city’s police said.

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Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong in 2021. File photo: GovHK.

Four Chinese nationals were among the victims, a number of whom were foreigners. Most of those who died were women and most were in their 20s. The city’s Immigration Department said it had not received any requests for assistance from Hongkongers.

Witnesses told media outlets that there was little crowd control, and that an emergency response was delayed by the sheer number of people on the narrow streets.

The cause of the crush is still being investigated.

In Hong Kong, the incident brought to mind a 1993 tragedy in Lan Kwai Fong, when 21 people ringing in the new year were trampled to death.

‘Profound sorrow’

Chief Executive John Lee joined the world’s leaders in offering his condolences following the fatal crush.

“It is with sadness that we learnt of the tragedy in Seoul, Korea,” Lee wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “I express profound sorrow over the passing of the victims, extend my deepest condolences to their families and wish for a speedy recovery to all those who were injured.”

John Lee
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on October 25, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Speaking on the RTHK programme, Cheung said she observed larger crowds on Saturday than Sunday at Lan Kwai Fong over the weekend, likely because people needed to work the next day.

She predicted that the turnout on Monday would be similar to Sunday.

Cheung added that restaurants and bars were disappointed that the government’s scrapping of Covid-19 restrictions on operating hours would only kick in on Thursday. At the moment, restaurants are only allowed to open until midnight, while bars can operate until 2 a.m.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.