SEOUL — A knot of people jostled and shoved each other on Wednesday (Oct 25) in a narrow alleyway in Seoul, before filing patiently past a barricade of police officers in a crowd control drill held ahead of the one-year anniversary of a deadly Halloween crush.
The exercise, showcasing an artificial intelligence-backed network of nearly 1,000 closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras designed to detect and alert against dangerous crowding, was displayed on banks of large screens watched by officials ready to swing into action.
The effort comes after a crowd surge last year led to a crush in a narrow alley in the Itaewon nightlife district, killing 159 people in a disaster blamed on a lack of preparation and crowd control measures, with early calls for help going unanswered.
This year, officials in the South Korean capital said they would work with police, emergency services and local officials to ensure “not a single person gets hurt” during Halloween celebrations.
“The drill focused on how to ensure the safety of citizens by monitoring the situation in real time with the help of cutting-edge science and technology,” said the city’s mayor, Mr Oh Se-hoon.
About 150 volunteers participated in the dry run of an early warning system that will include 909 CCTV cameras in 71 locations by year-end, aiming to analyse crowd movement and density before alerting authorities to signs of danger.
Sixteen areas will be specially monitored by officials ready to intervene and disperse people in response to warnings triggered when three or more individuals are counted in every square meter of any given space.