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In tears, Philomene Aby asked staff members at a South Korean community center whether they had heard anything about her son, 22, who was reported missing after a mob surge left at least 151 people dead in Seoul on Saturday. Around six o’clock on Saturday, her son Masela left for work at a club in the city’s Itaewon district. Ms. Aby, an Ivory Coast native who lives in Seoul, last saw him at that point. Hundreds of distressed individuals looking for information on their ancestors were assisted by bureaucrats who usually deal with birth certificates or home registrations.
Numerous desperate calls to discover missing persons were answered by officers at the contact center, who manned the emergency phone lines.
While Masela’s story had a pleasant ending when she eventually returned home unharmed, some others were less fortunate.
According to a Reuters witness, one individual sobbed and fell to the ground after conversing with several center employees. Since 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, a whiteboard in the main office has recorded updated phone counts every hour, totaling more than 4,100.
By late Sunday, 154 deaths had all but one been recognized.
According to Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, it takes longer for teenagers or foreign nationals who haven’t registered with the government, in which case they must contact the family directly.
After receiving a call at one in the morning from officials who recognized his 20-something daughter, one father traveled to a funeral home connected to a hospital in Seoul to pick up her remains.
The individual, who requested anonymity, said the family had hired a vehicle to transport the corpse to their hometown outside of Seoul so that the three-day burial ceremony could begin.
At least two remains from the event were at the funeral home on Sunday, according to a representative of the establishment.
They both seemed to be from outside of Seoul, which made it difficult for family members to get hold of the remains, the official added.
The young woman’s family was informed by a representative of the Seoul Metropolitan Government that preparations for assisting victims’ relatives were still being explored.