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Lag Ba’omer: Dozens killed, injured amid stampede on Mt. Meron

CM 29/04/2021

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About 103 people were injured and at least 44 were killed amid a stampede and massive crowds at Mount Meron as about one hundred thousand people celebrated the festival of Lag Ba’omer at the site in northern Israel on Thursday night.Some 44 people were in critical condition, with dozens of ambulances and six helicopters called to the scene to evacuate the injured, according to Magen David Adom.
A field hospital was set up at the scene. Israel Police and IDF soldiers worked to evacuate the injured and clear the crowds from the scene. Phone service at the scene crashed as thousands attempted to contact family members and emergency services.An investigation has been opened by Israel Police into the incident.
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. While all the physically injured people have since been evacuated from the scene, many people requiring psychological aid, including medical volunteers, are still at the scene and are receiving help.Pollack added that people had come to the celebrations excited that they were finally able to celebrate like they used to after a year handling the coronavirus outbreak, and stressed how the great joy was suddenly broken by the disaster.”Unfortunately we found small children being trampled there, and we performed resuscitations on children. We managed to save some of them,” said United Hatzalah founder Eli Beer to Army Radio. “We need to wake up, I’m shocked by the amount of people who were let in.””Difficult sights, people crushed without being able to escape. Some of the wounded are still being treated at the scene,” said MDA spokesman Zaki Heller, according to Maariv, The Jerusalem Post‘s sister publication.

“This is one of the worst tragedies that I have ever experienced. I have not seen anything like this since I entered into the field of emergency medicine back in 2000,” said Vice President of the Volunteer Department of United Hatzalah Lazar Hyman.

Shortly after the incident, Israel Police closed traffic into the area and began evacuating visitors from the site. The IDF announced that it had sent soldiers from the rescue brigade and Israel Air Force helicopters to help at the scene.”We were at the entrance, we decided we wanted to get out and then the police blocked the gate, so whoever wanted to get out could not get out. In that hurry we fell on each other, I thought I was going to die,” said an eyewitness to Maariv. “I saw people dead next to me.””A serious disaster on Mount Meron,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in response to the incident. “We are all praying for the recovery of the injured. I ask to strengthen the rescue forces operating in the area.””With great anxiety I follow the reports from Meron and pray for the healing of the wounded,” tweeted President Reuven Rivlin.”An unbearable disaster at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,” said Yamina head Naftali Bennett. “The entire nation of Israel is united in prayer for the victims.””I follow with concern and pain and anxiety the terrible disaster that occurred during the celebration at Meron,” said Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid on Facebook. “The whole of Israel is now praying for the healing of the injured. This is a difficult and sad night.”
The annual celebration at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was closed last year due to coronavirus restrictions. This year, police were expecting hundreds of thousands of people to visit the site by Friday night. 
Thousands of Israel Police and Border Police officers were deployed in the area to maintain order and ensure the safety of visitors to the site.
MDA forces, including hundreds of paramedics, doctors and first aiders with ambulances, were on standby. An 80-year-old man collapsed at the beginning of the celebrations. Some 52 people were required to undergo medical treatment on Thursday evening, Kan News reported.
Bonfires are lit at Meron and throughout Israel as the anniversary of Bar Yochai’s death is celebrated as a festival. In accordance with Health Ministry regulations and in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the number of people allowed in the actual complex to attend the bonfire lighting is limited to 10,000 people. 
However, the entire mountain where the grave is situated is open to the general public, like any tourist site, and huge screens will be placed throughout to allow the audience to watch the lighting from a comfortable and safe distance.
Children sit around a bonfire in Arnona, Jerusalem (Marc Israel Sellem)Children sit around a bonfire in Arnona, Jerusalem (Marc Israel Sellem)Children begin celebrating Lag Ba'omer, Tel Aviv, April 29, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv)Children begin celebrating Lag Ba’omer, Tel Aviv, April 29, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv)

Lag Ba'omer celebrations begin, Tel Baruch, Tel Aviv, April 29, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv)Lag Ba’omer celebrations begin, Tel Baruch, Tel Aviv, April 29, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni/Maariv) Source: Jerusalem Post

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