Stampede at religious festival in Israel leaves 45 dead

The World
Two young Jewish men are shown wearing Ultra Orthodox clothing and looking on to a staircase strewn with debris following a stampede.

Ultra Orthodox Jews look at the scene where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews during Lag BaOmer festival at Mt. Meron in northern Israel, April 30, 2021.

Sebastian Scheiner/AP

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In what’s being described as one of Israel’s worst civilian disasters, at least 45 people were killed early Friday in a stampede at a religious festival. An estimated 150 others were injured. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews were celebrating Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron in the north of Israel when, according to witnesses, large numbers of people started moving through a narrow passage which led to the stampede.

Witnesses said people were falling on top of each other in what was described as a “human avalanche” at the end of the passage when they descended slippery metal stairs. The stampede occurred in Israel’s first mass religious gathering held legally since coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

While an investigation into the causes of the stampede is underway, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene on Friday and asked for Sunday to be a day of national mourning.

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