More than 40 people have died in a stampede that happened during the Lag B’Omar festival in Mount Meron, Israel. Officials have said that more than 100 people were injured in the accident. Many injured people are in critical condition. Israel’s rescue service, The Magen David Adom (MDA), suspects that the death toll may increase.
Laag B’Omar is the major religious celebration for the Orthodox Jews of Israel, which is celebrated on the 18th day of the Hebrew month Iyar.
44 deaths so far, the death toll may increase
The Israeli media Jerusalem Post has so far confirmed the deaths of 44 people. After the stampede, the police cordoned off the entire area and evacuated the people gathered there. The MDA has said that the condition of 38 injured people is very critical. Relief and rescue agencies along with police worked hard to get the injured to the hospital as soon as possible.
The Festival event did not take place last year
This religious event was not organised last year due to coronavirus pandemic. This year the approval of organising the festival was given after vaccination. This year a large number of Jewish people gathered to join the pilgrimage.
How this incident took place?
The incident occurred as tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews flocked at the Galilee tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag B’Omer commemorations. Festival include all-night prayer, songs and dance around the holy fire.
People present at the site said that people were asphyxiated or trampled in a tightly packed passageway, some going unnoticed until the PA system sounded an appeal to disperse, as crowds packed the Mount Meron slope in defiance of COVID-19 warnings.
People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs. After which a stampede situation arose in the narrow passage. A large number of elderly people and children are among the dead and injured. Israeli media has published a picture of dead bodies covered in plastic bags on the ground.
Netanyahu called it a ‘heavy disaster’
The emergency services have deployed six helicopters to evacuate the injured. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the recovery of all the injured, calling it a “heavy disaster”. He offered condolences to the families and said that Sunday would be a day of national mourning. The Israeli military said that its medical teams and soldiers were on a mission to rescue the wounded at Mount Meron.