Dozens of people have died in a crowd crush at an ultra-Orthodox religious festival in northern Israel attended by tens of thousands of people.
Here is what we know so far
At least 28 people have died, according to a spokesperson from the Magen David Adom ambulance rescue service. Local media are reporting that the toll is at least 38. The Magen David Adom spokesperson said that at least 44 people were also in critical condition.
The disaster was “one of Israel’s worst”, said Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah, a volunteer emergency services organisation, Dov Maisel, said it was
Ultra-Orthodox men clambered through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush, as police and paramedics tried to reach the wounded.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “A serious disaster” and said “We are all praying for the recovery of the injured. I ask to strengthen the rescue forces operating in the area.”
Israeli president Reuven Rivlin said in a tweet, “With great anxiety I follow the reports from Meron and pray for the healing of the wounded.”
The gathering was held to celebrate Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday honouring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second century sage and mystic who is buried at the foot of Mount Meron. Bar Yochai’s tomb is considered one of the holiest sites in Israel.
Israel has lifted most Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and the festival was held legally. But authorities had authorised 10,000 people to attend the gathering at the tomb and believe that there were in fact 30,000 pilgrims who had travelled to Meron in buses chartered from across Israel.
The festival was the largest public gathering during the coronavirus pandemic and 5,000 police had been deployed to secure the event.