A stampede during a Jewish religious festival in Israel resulted in the deaths of at least 45 people — including Americans — and left another 150 or so injured, in a tragedy that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was one of the worst disasters the country has seen.
What are the details?
Officials estimated that roughly 100,000 showed up at Mount Meron to celebrate Lag B’Omer, an annual event paying “homage to second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at his burial site,” CNN reported.
It was the first legally-held gathering since the country lifted its COVID-19 restrictions, after vaccinating more than 58% of the population.
CBS News reported:
The stampede began when large numbers of people thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage during the event, according to witnesses and video footage. People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs, witnesses said.
Video footage showed large numbers of people, most of them black-clad ultra-Orthodox men, squeezed in the tunnel. Initial reports and witnesses said police barricades had prevented people from exiting quickly.
Avi Murac, head of the medical department of Israeli volunteer agency United Hatzalah, was on the scene. He told NBC News that he personally performed CPR on around two dozen people in the aftermath, including a teenager he found collapsed on a stairwell.
“”There were a lot of people just lying on top of the other, not breathing,” Murac said. “People were suffocated because they fell on top of each other.”
Dozens of survivors remain in critical condition.
According to ABC News, the U.S. State Department has not yet released the number of American victims, but the Consulate General of Israel in New York said four U.S. citizens were killed in the horrible accident.
Among them was 19-year-old American Daniel “Donny” Morris of New Jersey. The young man’s uncle, Rabbi Yechiel Morris, told ABC that his nephew was in Israel studying for the year.
“We are all shocked and devastated,” Yechiel Morris said. “There are no words.”
Netanyahu declared Sunday a national day of mourning, after visiting Mount Meron. He called the incident “one of the worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel” and offered his condolences to the victims’ families.
The prime minister has called for an investigation into the tragedy.