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16 killed in collapse at South Korean concert by girl band 4Minute

16 killed in collapse at South Korean concert by girl band 4Minute

Spectators plunge to deaths after grate gives way at South Korean show by girl band

16 music fans plunged to their deaths yesterday when a ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed during an outdoor pop concert in South Korea.

Another 11 people were seriously injured in the tragedy in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, after falling about 20 metres into an underground parking area.

Fire officials said the victims were standing on the grate to get a better view of a performance by girl band 4Minute, who are popular across Asia.

About 700 people had gathered to watch the concert, which was part of a local festival, the Yonhap news agency reported.

A video from the scene recorded by a spectator that later ran on the YTN television network showed the band continuing to dance for a while in front of a crowd that appeared to be unaware of the accident.

Rescue workers carry an injured person on a stretcher after a ventilation grate collapsed at an outdoor theatre in Seongnam. Photo: AP

Meanwhile, dozens of shocked spectators were shown standing next to the ventilation grate, gazing into the dark, gaping hole where audience members had been standing.

“There was a sudden, loud screaming, and when I turned it looked as if people were being sucked down into a hole,” one witness told YTN.

A woman standing nearby said a great “cloud of dust” billowed up from the ventilation shaft after the grate collapsed.

Fire officials said many of the dead and injured appeared to be commuters who stopped to watch after leaving work. Most of the dead were men in their 30s and 40s, while five were women in their 20s and 30s, they said.

Seongnam city spokesman Kim Nam-jun said it was believed that the grate collapsed under the weight of the people. Prime Minister Chung Hong-won visited an emergency centre in Seongnam and urged officials to focus on helping the victims’ families, Kim said.

Girls’ band 4Minute. Photo: SCMP Pictures

One spectator, Lee Sung-eun, told JTBC TV she came close to being among the victims. “I wanted to climb onto the grating to get a better view,” Lee said. “But my father stopped me, saying it was dangerous. A couple of minutes later, the people standing on the grating were gone.”

The tragedy happened as South Korea still struggles with the aftermath of a ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The sinking jolted South Korea into thinking about safety issues that had been largely overlooked as the country rose from poverty to an Asian power.

Observers say many safety problems in the country stem from little regulation, light punishment for violators and wide ignorance about safety in general – and a tendency to value economic advancement over all else.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

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