More than 150 people were injured in what officials say is one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters.
What We Know:
- The stampede occurred in the northern Israeli town of Mount Meron. Thousands gathered in the town to celebrate Lag BaOmer, a festival celebrating a second-century Jewish rabbi. The festival draws thousands every year, where attendees dance and light bonfires. The festival was the first large religious gathering since the country lifted covid restrictions.
- According to NPR, at around 1 a.m. Friday local time, participants in an area of the festival began pushing through a slippery staircase. All of a sudden, several people fell to the floor and began piling atop each other. Witnesses say in the packed corridor, several people were trampled or asphyxiated in the chaos.
נורא לראות את הצפיפות שהיתה במעבר הצר, ואת הדוחק העצום שהוביל בסוף לאסון הקשה והמחריד. pic.twitter.com/1RE7FggFXt
— ישראל כהן (@Israelcohen911) April 29, 2021
- Local media estimated the number of people at this year’s festival to be almost 100,000. Rescue officials placed the death toll at 45, with five U.S. citizens being among those killed. Authorities struggled to identify the dead, with many families rushing to bury their loved ones before the start of Sabbath on Friday.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the tragedy as a “huge disaster” while visiting the scene. Netanyahu declared Sunday a national day of mourning in response. Paramedics told reporters of first-aid being administered en-masse after the stampede. Kalanit Taub, a first responder, said, “I saw 20-plus CPRs ongoing at the same time.”
- Investigators are still determining a cause for the stampede. One man said, “Everyone was crammed on top of each other and no one understood why.” He saw police blocking the passageway and shouted, “people are dying in there.” Dozens of ambulances and helicopters were called to the scene to transport the many injured.
Many world leaders offered their condolences to the nation, including Queen Elizabeth II and President Joe Biden, who called the loss of life “heartbreaking.”