Dozens injured in stampede at big Israeli religious festival

James Marshall
April 30, 2021

Israeli media reported that up to 38 people were killed, but the rescue service did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation. Emergency services are evacuating the injured.

Emergency services and ambulances "are treating dozens of injured" including "20 patients in a critical state", Zaki Heller, spokesperson for Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service, said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a "heavy disaster", and said he was praying for the casualties.

The MDA posted a video on Twitter, showing a worker saying: 'The Magen David Adom teams have finished providing medical response at the site.

Israeli media published an image of a row of bodies covered in plastic bags on the ground. Police have asked everyone at the site to evacuate.

Authorities had authorized 10,000 people to gather at the site of the tomb but organizers said more than 650 busses had been chartered from across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.

'They are now evacuating in MDA ambulances and MDA helicopters to the hospitals.

Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews make a pilgrimage to Meron each year for Lag B'Omer, an annual religious holiday marked with bonfires, prayer and dancing.

According to the Times of Israel, organisers estimated that 100,000 people arrived on Thursday night, with more set to arrive on Friday.

Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to coronavirus restrictions, but lockdown measures were eased this year amid Israel's rapid COVID-19 vaccination program that has seen more than 50% of the population fully vaccinated. But officials later said it appeared that the casualties had been asphyxiated or trampled in a stampede.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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