Israel crush: Dozens killed at Lag B’Omer religious festival

World

At least 44 people have been killed in a crush at a crowded religious festival in the north-east of Israel.

Dozens more were injured at the Lag B’Omer festival, which takes place annually at the foot of Mount Meron.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a “heavy disaster” and has travelled to the scene.

Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews attended the festival, making it the largest event in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The country’s successful vaccination programme has allowed it to lift many restrictions, but health officials had still warned of the risk of Covid-19.

Early reports suggested a structure at the site had collapsed, but emergency officials later said a crush had occurred at around 01:00 on Thursday.

According to police sources, it started after some attendees slipped on steps, which caused dozens more to fall.

“It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster,” said one witness.

There has been video posted online, showing thousands of people struggling to flee through a narrow passageway.

Loudhailer messages urged people to disperse, before police requested the full evacuation of the site.

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

At least 150 people were injured, said officials, including 38 people who were in critical condition at the site.

 

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