At least 44 killed in stampede at religious festival – updates


At least 44 people have been killed after a horrifying crush at a religious festival in Israel.

Children are reported to be among the dead and there are about 150 injured.

Eli Beer, director of an Israeli volunteer ambulance service, Hatzalah, told Army Radio on Friday: ““Unfortunately, we found small children trampled there, and we performed CPR on children. We were able to save some of them.”

Six helicopters were used to transport the injured from the scene of the disaster.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the tragedy as a “heavy disaster”.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at Meron in northern Israel to celebrate the religious holiday Lag B’Omer.

Police said that the stampede was triggered after revellers slipped on steps, causing many more people to fall over.

MDA spokesman Zaki Heller told the Maariv newspaper: “Difficult sights, people crushed without being able to escape.

“Some of the wounded are still being treated at the scene.”

Another eyewitness described seeing people die next to them.

They told Maariv: “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.

“I saw people dead next to me.”

The Israel Defence forces have sent soldiers from the rescue brigade and Israel Air Force helicopters to help at the scene.

The religious holiday marks the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, whose tomb is located at Meron.

Bonfires are normally lit at Meron and across the country to celebrate the festival.

Last year, the celebrations were cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year, police were expecting hundreds of thousands of people to visit the site by Friday night.