The stampede at the base of Mt. Meron is one of Israel’s largest disasters in recent history as approximately 50,000-100,000 people celebrated the festival on the mountain.
Rabat – During Israel’s Lag B’Omer festival, a large stampede fatally wounded 44 people and injured approximately 150.
The annual religious festival occurs on the 33rd day of the Omer which is the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot. Most orthodox Jews celebrate the holiday by lighting bonfires, holding weddings, and gathering at the base of Israel’s Mt. Meron.
Authorities reported emergency calls relating to the incident around 12:49 a.m., local time on Friday morning.
The first paramedic on the scene, Omri Hochman, told local news outlets, “the sights were very difficult, dozens of wounded lay in a narrow corridor and next to it. Dozens more walked around suffering from various injuries. There were cries of pain, sighs and there were those who lost consciousness and needed resuscitation.”
Witnesses described the scene as extremely disturbing with paramedics performing CPR on up to 20 people at the same time.
Local hospitals released many patients with minor injuries according to the Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.
Edelstein commented on the hospital’s readiness to respond to a mass casualty due to a training exercise on Thursday. “When people were called to the hospital in the middle of the night, they were ready,” said Edelstein.
The stampede is one of the worst tragedies in Israel’s recent history.
Israel’s prime minister tweeted his condolences to the victims of the disaster stating and called upon social media users to limit the spread of false information.
“A large proportion of those who have perished have not yet been identified and I want to avoid spreading rumors on social media because this is tearing up the hearts of families. Let the authorities work.”
Investigators from Israel’s government are currently investigating the cause of the mass stampede but many witnesses claim the narrowness of a corridor caused people to panic.
One witness told local media, “it was crowded and there were around 60,000 to 70,000 people, no place to move, and people started to fall to the ground, a lot fell to the ground.”
The prime minister declared Sunday a national day of mourning.