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16 killed in collapse at South Korea concert

17 October 2014, 19:25

Seongham - Sixteen people were killed and nine others seriously injured when they plunged down a ventilation shaft after a grating gave way as they watched an outdoor pop concert Friday in Seongnam south of Seoul.

"They were standing on the ventilation grate to get a better view when it collapsed under their weight," a spokesman for the local fire services told AFP.

Rescuers said 16 were confirmed dead, but added the death toll might rise with some of the injured understood to be in critical condition.

Television reports said the victims fell more than 10 metres (30 feet) into an underground parking area when the grate gave way shortly before 6:00pm (0900 GMT).

Amateur video footage obtained by the YTN news channel showed shocked spectators surrounding the collapsed grate as the popular all-girl K-pop band 4Minute, apparently oblivious to the accident, continued performing on stage.

More than 700 people were believed to be attending the outdoor concert.

"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.

Most of the dead and injured were believed to be students, YTN said, adding that the concert organisers had repeatedly urged the fans to move off the grate before it collapsed.

One young spectator, Lee Sung-Eun, told JTBC TV that she had come close to being among the victims.

"I wanted to climb onto the grating so I could get a better view of the band," Lee said.

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"But my father stopped me, saying it was dangerous. A couple of minutes later, I heard a bang and saw the people standing on the grating gone."

The injured were being treated at several hospitals near the venue.

South Korea has suffered a recent series of accidents involving young victims, including the Sewol ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 dead, most of them high school students.

In February, the roof caved in on a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. An investigation uncovered evidence of structural flaws and lax management controls.

The Sewol disaster prompted government promises of a national review of safety standards, as it became clear that poor regulatory oversight was a major contributor to the scale of the tragedy.

The last major accident at a music concert was in 2005 when 11 people were crushed to death and nearly 80 injured in a stampede as thousands tried to enter the stadium venue in the southeastern city of Sangju.

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