Home News 44 killed, dozens harm in non secular pageant stampede in Israel
News - April 30, 2021

44 killed, dozens harm in non secular pageant stampede in Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — A stampede at a non secular pageant attended by tens of hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed no less than 44 folks and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officers stated. It was one of many nation’s deadliest civilian disasters.

The stampede started when massive numbers of individuals thronged a slim tunnel-like passage through the occasion, in keeping with witnesses and video footage. Folks started falling on prime of one another close to the tip of the walkway, as they descended slippery metallic stairs, witnesses stated.

One of many injured, Avraham Leibe, instructed Israeli public broadcaster Kan {that a} crush of individuals making an attempt to descend the mountain brought about a “normal bedlam” on a slippery metallic slope adopted by stairs. “No person managed to halt,” he stated from a hospital mattress. “I noticed one after the opposite fall.”

Video footage confirmed massive numbers of individuals, most of them black-clad ultra-Orthodox males, squeezed within the tunnel. Preliminary reviews stated police barricades had prevented folks from exiting rapidly.

The stampede occurred through the celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron, the primary mass non secular gathering to be held legally since Israel lifted almost all restrictions associated to the coronavirus pandemic. The nation has seen instances plummet since launching one of many world’s most profitable vaccination campaigns late final yr.

Lag BaOmer attracts tens of hundreds of individuals, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, every year to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who’s believed to be buried there. Massive crowds historically gentle bonfires, pray and dance as a part of the celebrations.

This yr, media estimated the gang at about 100,000 folks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron round noon Friday, stated it was “one of many worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel” and supplied condolences to the households. He stated Sunday could be a day of nationwide mourning.

At the very least 44 folks had been killed, in keeping with well being and rescue officers. Within the rapid aftermath of the stampede, rescue employees collected the our bodies, wrapped them in white covers and laid them aspect by aspect on the bottom on the web site. Our bodies had been later taken to Israel’s central forensic pathology institute.

By mid-morning Friday, efforts had been nonetheless underneath technique to determine among the victims and join households with lacking family. Within the night time from Thursday to Friday, cellular phone protection round Mount Meron had collapsed for hours and emergency hotlines had been overwhelmed with cellphone calls.

Within the overwhelmingly ultra-Orthodox metropolis of Bnei Brak, close to Tel Aviv, officers had been working with healthcare employees to attach the households of the lacking. “The image is slowly turning into clearer,” Kivi Hess, a municipal spokesman, instructed Channel 13 TV.

In a race in opposition to time, funerals had been to be held earlier than sunset Friday, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath when burials don’t happen.

The loss of life toll at Mount Meron was on par with the variety of folks killed in a 2010 forest hearth, which is believed to be the deadliest civilian tragedy within the nation’s historical past.

Zaki Heller, spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue service, stated 150 folks had been harm within the stampede, with six hospitalized in important situation.

Heller instructed Israel Military Radio that “nobody had ever dreamed” one thing like this might occur. “In a single second, we went from a contented occasion to an immense tragedy,” he stated.

The Justice Ministry stated the police’s inside investigations division was launching a probe into potential felony misconduct by officers.

The lethal stampede was additionally certain to have political reverberations at a time of nice uncertainty following an inconclusive March election, the fourth in two years. Netanyahu has to date been unsuccessful in forming a governing coalition, and his time for doing so runs out early subsequent week. His political rivals, together with former allies bent on ending his 12-year rule, will then get an opportunity to attempt to cobble collectively an alliance from a patchwork of left-wing, centrist and hawkish events.

Netanyahu wants the continued assist of ultra-Orthodox events, his long-time allies, if he desires to maintain faint hopes alive of staying in energy.

Israeli media reported Friday that earlier this month, Netanyahu assured ultra-Orthodox politicians in a gathering that the Lag BaOmer celebrations would happen with few limitations. The reviews stated this determination was supported by Cupboard ministers and police, regardless of objections by well being officers who warned of a danger of renewed coronavirus infections.

Final yr, observances on Mount Meron had been restricted because of the pandemic.

Firstly of this yr’s celebrations, Public Safety Minister Amir Ohana, police chief Yaakov Shabtai and different prime officers visited the occasion and met with police, who had deployed 5,000 additional forces to take care of order.

Condolences had been despatched by international leaders and diplomats, together with the U.S. cost d’affaires. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter that his “ideas are with the Israeli folks and people who have misplaced family members on this tragedy.”

The European Union stated in an announcement that it conveyed “deepest condolences to households and associates of the victims” and wished a speedy restoration to the injured. Ukrainian International Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated his nation stands by Israel after the “terrifying information from Mount Meron.”

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