At least 40 dead & 65 injured in stampede at Jewish festival

Author: Claudia Aoraha
This post originally appeared on World News – breaking international headlines and exclusives | The Sun

AT LEAST 40 people have died and 65 others were injured in a stampede at a religious bonfire festival in Israel on Friday, local media reports.

Multiple casualties and fatalities were reported after a metal grandstand platform apparently collapsed at the overcrowded Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer in Meron just after midnight.

Overcrowding at the event led to issues with rescue efforts

16

Overcrowding at the event led to issues with rescue efforts

People attempting to escape after the grandstand allegedly collapsed

16

People attempting to escape after the grandstand allegedly collapsedCredit: Reuters

Reports early Friday said at least 40 people had died

16

Reports early Friday said at least 40 people had diedCredit: AP

The Times of Israel reported that many had been crushed to death during the disaster as thousands of orthodox Jews gathered for the largest festival held in Israel since the Covid outbreak began.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the crush as a “heavy disaster” as rescuers rushed to free trapped festival goers.

The mass gathering took place at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations when the structure collapsed.

Videos posted on social media showed chaotic scenes as Ultra-Orthodox men clambered through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush, as police and paramedics tried to reach the wounded.

Reports are conflicting on the number of people who were injured, with the Associated Press reporting that authorities indicated up to 150 may have been hospitalized in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Jerusalem Post reported that of dozens who were injured, about 44 people were in critical condition, citing Israel’s national emergency service, Magen David Adom (MDA).

Initial reports said a stand had collapsed at one of the concerts – however, rescue services said the tragedy was caused by a crush and overcrowding.

Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews were gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage

16

Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews were gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sageCredit: Reuters

Conflicting reports put the number of injured people at somewhere between 65 and 150

16

Conflicting reports put the number of injured people at somewhere between 65 and 150Credit: AP

Many were killed in the horror crush as thousands attended the first festival since the covid outbreak

16

Many were killed in the horror crush as thousands attended the first festival since the covid outbreakCredit: AFP

Jewish worshippers sing and dance as they stand on tribunes at the Lag B'Omer event in Mount Meron, northern Israel

16

Jewish worshippers sing and dance as they stand on tribunes at the Lag B’Omer event in Mount Meron, northern IsraelCredit: Reuters

People were seen celebrating Lag BaOmer before the disaster struck this evening

16

People were seen celebrating Lag BaOmer before the disaster struck this eveningCredit: AFP

Many were warned against gathering at the bonfire festival over Covid fears

16

Many were warned against gathering at the bonfire festival over Covid fearsCredit: AFP

The IDF, which sent its 669 rescue team to the site, said a roof had also collapsed.

A pilgrim at the festival told a local news channel: “We thought maybe there was a [bomb] alert over a suspicious package.

“No one imagined that this could happen here. Rejoicing became mourning, a great light became a deep darkness.”

Netanyahu said, “Everyone is praying for the recovery of the injured.”

MDA spokesman Zaki Heller told the Ynet news site that due to the severe overcrowding, it took some time to help people who had been trapped.

“The rescue teams were called to one of the concerts near Bar Yochai’s tomb, where there was a terrible crush near a building. There were dozens trapped on a nearby stand and it took time to evacuate them,” Heller said.

Ambulances tried to make it through huge crowds of people

16

Ambulances tried to make it through huge crowds of people

The collapse occurred just after midnight

16

The collapse occurred just after midnightCredit: Reuters

Other videos from the scene showed rescue workers were attempting to set up a field hospital – and dozens of ambulances could be seen trying to navigate through the huge crowds.

Reports indicate that around 100,000 people may have been attending the night’s events, despite health officials warning that people should not gather in large crowds even as Covid cases were plummeting across Israel.

Around 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, with the cops urging pilgrims to avoid incidents during the feast when bonfires are lit.

Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers’ efforts to keep order at the site.

This was the first huge religious gathering of its kind to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country has seen Covid cases plummet since launching one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.

The tomb is also considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and it is an annual pilgrimage site.

Dozens of people have been injured in the disaster

16

Dozens of people have been injured in the disasterCredit: @TPS_News_co_il/Twitter

Medics confirmed that dozens of people had been hurt at the event in northern Israel

16

Medics confirmed that dozens of people had been hurt at the event in northern IsraelCredit: @TPS_News_co_il/Twitter

The celebrations lead to disaster

16

The celebrations lead to disaster

Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a "heavy disaster"

16

Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a “heavy disaster”Credit: @TPS_News_co_il/Twitter

Israelis gather around a bonfire to celebrate Lag BaOmer in Tel Aviv, Israel

16

Israelis gather around a bonfire to celebrate Lag BaOmer in Tel Aviv, IsraelCredit: Rex

More to follow…

For the latest news on this story keep checking back at Sun Online.

Thesun.co.uk is your go to destination for the best celebrity news, football news, real-life stories, jaw-dropping pictures and must-see video.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.