Health Care

Dozens critically injured in stampede at Israeli religious festival

Dozens critically injured in stampede at Israeli religious festival”

Initial reports indicated that the carnage began when a section of stadium seating collapsed but rescue workers later linked the casualties to a stampede.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered at the tomb of the second-century sage, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.

A source at the northern Ziv hospital, one of several receiving casualties, told AFP it had recorded at least six deaths.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "heavy disaster", adding on Twitter: "We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties".

Over 100 people were injured, many of them critically, as medical staff struggled to evacuate people trapped at the scene at Mount Meron.

It is thought to be one of the largest gatherings of people - certainly in Israel and perhaps farther afield - since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic more than a year ago.

Paramedics and ultra-Orthodox Jewish men stand next to covered bodies after the tragedy.

Dozens of ambulances are at the scene and emergency services have laid out bodies under covers on the ground. "A bad disaster of people who came to celebrate Lag B'Omer and were unfortunately crushed to death", said United Hatzalah vice president of operations Dov Maisel.

More news: Ontario to introduce paid COVID-19 leave

United Hatzalah CEO Eli Pollack told The Jerusalem Post that the incident occurred when large crowds of people streamed into a closed-in complex, leading to dozens of people being crushed against fences.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid lamented the "terrible disaster", and described it as a "sad" night for the country.

Since December, more than 50 percent of the nine-million population, or about 80 percent of over-20s, have been fully vaccinated with two shots.

The Mount Meron tomb is considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and it is an annual pilgrimage site. The event attracted tens of thousands from the ultra-Orthodox community.

The stampede happened after midnight local time and its cause was not immediately clear.

"This was a very hard site-sites that we have not seen here in Israel since the worst days of the terrorist wave back during the early 2000s", he said.

Around 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, with the police urging pilgrims to avoid incidents during the feast when bonfires are lit.

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