A stampede at a religious festival visited by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 44 people. It injured some 150 others early Friday, pharmaceutical officials said, in one of the country’s most dangerous civilian disasters.
The flight occurred when the holidays of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron. Tens of thousands of people, ultra-Orthodox Jews, gathered to honour Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic who is buried there. Large crowds traditionally light fires, pray and dance as part of the parties.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the run a “great tragedy” and said everyone was praying for the victims.
Media thought the crowd at about 100,000 people, and videos posted on social media showed numbers of black-clad ultra-Orthodox men walking through narrow access to the site.
‘I felt like I was about to die’, stated a person present at the site.
Photos showed rows of closed boxes lying on the ground afterwards, with dozens of ambulances at the site.
The Haaretz daily quoted witnesses as saying police barriers had quite notable from exiting quickly.
Eli Beer, director of the Hatzalah relief service, said he was shocked by how packed the event was, stating the location was equipped to handle perhaps a quarter of the people who were there. “Close to 40 people were killed as a result of this event,” he told the Army radio station.
By Friday morning, Zaka, another ambulance service, declared the death toll is 44.
Spokesman Motti Bukchin said children were being notified, and the bodies were being taken to a single location for identification. He said he found the bodies hidden before sundown of the Jewish Sabbath when funerals do not occur.
The death toll equalled the number of people killed in a 2010 forest fire, which is believed to be the deadliest civilian casualty in the country’s history.