Sebastian Skinner / A.P.
JERUSALEM – At least 45 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in an intense Orthodox Jewish religious ceremony in northern Israel, where tens of thousands of believers have gathered in one of the country’s biggest events since the outbreak began.
The maroon chaos began Friday morning at the festival of Lock Palmore, which featured fire and dance around the 2nd-century Rabbi Galilee tomb.
According to witnesses, at around 1 a.m. local time, participants were being pushed through a slippery staircase in an area of the campus where Told Aaron’s ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community was holding its celebration. Suddenly, people in a row fell to the ground and piled on top of each other.
It is a pity to see the crowds that were in the narrow passage and the immense urgency that eventually led to the severe and terrible catastrophe. pic.twitter.com/1RE7FggFXt
– Israel Cohen (@ Israelcohen911) April 29, 2021
Witnesses said people were suffocating or trampled on the tightly packed corridor. The stampede occurred in the men’s section of the gender-neutral festival, citing Reuters doctors, who said the casualties included children.
Authorities had limited the number of fireballs this year in an attempt to control the crowd due to COVID-19 concerns.
“There have not been a lot of fires this year, which is why I hope everyone came at the same time,” a young survivor identified as Abraham told Israeli Channel 12 television from his hospital bed.
Hesi Levy, director general of the Israeli Ministry of Health, told the NPR that he was concerned about the possibility of an outbreak of the virus as large numbers of people were gathering.
“I expressed my concern yesterday about the gathering of hundreds of thousands of people coming to celebrate Lock Palmer, and we talked about a very dangerous scene about the Corona,” Levy said. “We don’t know if everyone is vaccinated. We know that children under the age of 16 are not vaccinated. And transmitting the disease is very dangerous.”
Despite warnings from Israeli health officials, local media estimated the crowd at about 100,000 at this year’s event.
Another witness said Harretz The newspaper said, “It happened in a split moment; people were trampling on each other, it was a disaster.”
Rescue officials have raised the death toll to 45. Jackie Heller, spokeswoman for the Magon David Automobile Rescue Service, said 150 people were injured in the stampede, six of them in critical condition.
Authorities struggled to identify the dead and asked families to bring medical records and photos of their relatives to Israel’s central morgue.
Relatives continued to search for their missing loved ones Friday morning as buses evacuated the crowd overnight and cell phone service in the area collapsed. The Israelis released photos of their relatives, and the Israeli presidential office set up an emergency hotline to help families search for missing relatives.
Families of those who died in the seal race to bury the dead before sunset on Friday, the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath when not buried.
Ronan Svalon / POOL / AFP via Getty Images
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron on Friday afternoon, described the tragedy as “one of the worst disasters for the state of Israel.” He said Sunday would be a day of national mourning.
The number of dead is equal to the number of people killed 2010 WildfireThis is considered Israel’s worst public tragedy, according to the Associated Press.
Israeli Foreign Ministry conveys condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other delegates a Dozens of countries, including the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain, which established diplomatic relations with Israel last year.
One act of kindness caught the attention of the local media: a Palestinian Arab city in the region set up food and drink for Jewish participants who were evacuating the pilgrimage site despite a Muslim fast for Ramadan.
Scott Newman of the NPR contributed to this report.