Over 40 crushed to death in Israel festival stampede

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More than 40 people were killed and dozens others injured in a deadly incident occurred at a Jewish festival being held in Mount Meron, Israel, on Thursday night.

Around ten thousand ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered to celebrate Lag BaOmer, a festival celebrated annually, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials said that 150 injured people have been shifted to various hospitals for treatment, adding that six out of them are in critical condition.

An onlooker told international media that incident occurred in a split of second when some attendees slipped on steps connected to a narrow walkway.

A survivor of the deadly incident told the Kan public broadcaster that “no one knew what to do”.

“It started with heavy crowding. There was a lot of people on top of me. I was lying on someone else who wasn’t breathing. There were screams, chaos. I saw children underneath me. The only thing going through my mind was that I didn’t want my child to be an orphan.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday expressed grief over the incident declared Sunday as a national day of mourning.

“Let us all unite with the grief of the families and pray for the recovery of the wounded,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

He also visited the disaster site and heard reviews from Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Israel Police Chief Yaakov Shabtai, and other senior officials.

“This is one of the heaviest disasters that hit Israel. There were heartbreaking scenes here as people crushed to death, including children. Many of the victims have not yet been identified,” Netanyahu added.

The Israeli premier thanked the police and rescue forces “for preventing a much heavier disaster.”

He promised that the government “will conduct a thorough, serious and in-depth investigation to ensure that such a disaster does not recur.”

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