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Seoul Halloween crowd crush one year on: What we know

SEOUL, South Korea — On Halloween weekend last year, nearly 160 people were crushed to death in a narrow alleyway in South Korea's capital after the country's first post-pandemic holiday celebrations descended into deadly chaos.

One year on, despite an investigation and ongoing prosecutions of local officials, families of the victims -- who were overwhelmingly young women in their 20s and 30s -- say they are still searching for answers.

AFP takes a look at what we know:

Survivors describe being trapped in an impossibly dense crowd of people -- swept off their feet and suffocated by the pressure of bodies around them -- after tens of thousands of people poured into Seoul's Itaewon neighbourhood on October 29, 2022 for Halloween celebrations.

There was only a light police presence and no advance crowd management plans as the event did not have an official organiser, allowing it to dodge the legally required preparations for mass gatherings.

In a narrow, sloping alleyway between streets of bars and clubs, 158 people -- including 28 foreigners -- were crushed to death. The official toll of 159 includes a teenage survivor who killed himself days after the disaster.

This year's Halloween is expected to be very subdued, with the public discouraged from celebrating.

Bars and nightclubs in Itaewon -- the go-to place for the US holiday -- are not promoting Halloween-themed events.

District officials initially banned Halloween celebrations at Hongdae, another popular drink-and-party neighbourhood, but quickly scrapped it after criticism that they should prepare for crowd control rather than banning the public from going out.

The police have ramped up preparations for huge crowds, and this week carried out a drill using an AI-backed network of nearly 1,000 surveillance cameras designed to detect and flag dangerous crowding.

They have also cracked down on those dressing up as police officers for Halloween, warning that they can face up to six months in jail or up to 3 million won ($2,200) in fines.

"Please do not wear costumes similar to police uniforms on Halloween to avoid confusion," a National Police Agency official said.

A year on, victims' families and survivors of the