Thousands of Seoul residents who flocked to the altar at City Hall on Monday, as the capital struggled with grief and anger over the disaster

The worst the country has seen since 2014, when the Sewol ferry sank, killing more than 300 people. Of the 154 who died, 98 were women and 56 were men.

There is speculation that women died in greater numbers because they are smaller and found it harder to muscle their way up to breathe or make their way out of the crowd.

While it is not yet clear how the crush began, accusations have been levelled against the authorities, saying they could have done more to prevent what many believe was an entirely avoidable disaster.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has promised a thorough investigation to "make necessary institutional changes so that such an accident is not repeated".

But Korean media have pointed out that just two weeks earlier, a concert by K-pop superstars BTS in the southern city of Busan attended by 55,000 fans was manned by 2,700 security officers.

In contrast, only 137 officers in Seoul were deployed to Itaewon on Saturday night to manage a crowd that ran into thousands in the first mask-free Halloween event since Covid.

It remained unclear what led the crowd to surge into the downhill alley in the Itaewon area on Saturday night, and authorities promised a thorough investigation.

Witnesses said people fell on each other "like dominoes," and some victims were bleeding from their noses and mouths while being given CPR.

More than 80% of the dead were in their 20s and 30s, and at least four were teenagers, death count could further rise as 37 of the injured people were in serious condition.