Wednesday, 05 May, 2021


Israel stampede: At least 44 dead and dozens injured

By Canadian Press	
	 		Religious festival stampede in Israel kills 44 hurts dozens By Canadian Press Religious festival stampede in Israel kills 44 hurts dozens
Conrad Doyle | 30 April, 2021, 11:54

The crush occurred as tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews thronged to the Galilee tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shim Bar Yochai for annual Lag B'Omer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.

A crowd of police and festival-goers after a stampede that injured and killed dozens in Mount Meron, northern Israel, on April 29. Numerous injured were evacuated to hospitals across the country.

Initial reports had indicated the carnage began when a section of stadium seating collapsed but rescue workers later tied the casualties to a stampede.

"A serious disaster on Mount Meron", said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"This was a very hard site-sites that we have not seen here in Israel since the worst days of the terrorist wave back during the early 2000s", he said.

At least 44 people have been killed and about 150 others injured in a stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews, according to medical officials said.

Helicopters had ferried injured people to hospitals in northern Israel, the Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance service said.

AP reported it was the first legal religious gathering held in Israel since the country's COVID-19 restrictions had been lifted following its remarkably fast vaccine rollout.

Authorities had authorized 10,000 people to gather at the site of the tomb but organizers said more than 650 busses had been chartered from across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.

The army and emergency services deployed helicopters to evacuate the wounded. "It was a disaster", another witness told the newspaper.

Dozens of ambulances are at the scene and emergency services have laid out bodies under covers on the ground.

Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but lockdown measures were eased this year amid Israel's rapid Covid-19 vaccination programme that has seen more than 50 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Thousands of people had gathered at the site to celebrate Lag B'Omer Jewish holiday, with local media reporting it was the biggest event in Israel since the start of the pandemic previous year.

"This is one of the worst tragedies that I have ever experienced", said Lazar Hyman of the United Hatzalah volunteer rescue service, who was at the scene.

Around 5,000 police had been deployed to secure the event.

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