A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel killed at least 45 people and injured about 150, on Friday.
It was one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters, according to Associated Press.
The stampede began when large numbers of people thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage during the event, according to witnesses and video footage.
People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs, CBC news quoted witnesses as saying.
Before the stampede, however, celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron had been ongoing, the first mass religious gathering to be held since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “great tragedy,” and said everyone was praying for the victims.
He said children were among the dead and described it as one of the “heaviest disasters” to befall Israel, as he visited the scene.
“There were heartbreaking sights here, people crushed to death including children,” he said. “A large proportion of those who have perished have not yet been identified … This is tearing up the hearts of families.”
Video posted on social media appeared to show angry crowds jeering at Mr Netanyahu during his visit as they blamed his government and the police for the disaster.
The prime minister said a thorough investigation would be conducted and declared a national day of mourning on Sunday.
According to the Times of Israel, internal police and government reports warned of the potential for disaster at Mount Meron.
A national traffic police report said the holy site could not safely accommodate the crowds that come each year and a state comptroller warned “systemic failure” with “many different authorities all involved in its management” could endanger worshipers, the Times of Israel reported.
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