Israel has experienced the worst civilian disaster in its modern history as more than 40 people were killed in a stampede at a crowded Lag B’Omer religious festival in the northeast of the country.
The annual celebration takes place annually at the foot of Mount Meron.
Sources says at least 44 people have been killed and some 150 badly injured.
Police sources told Israeli newspaper,Haaretz, that it started after some attendees slipped on steps, which caused dozens more to fall.
Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews attended the all-night festival, making it the largest event in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Israeli authorities said the crowd was too much, making it difficult to enforce Covid-19 restrictions.
“This is one of the most difficult civil disasters the state of Israel has ever known,” said Eli Bin, director of the Magen David Adom ambulance service. “It is difficult to contain the magnitude of the disaster,” he added.
Hundreds of ambulances were used by the medics while some of the injured were airlifted to hospitals, with the military being brought in to support the rescue effort.
“Words cannot possibly offer comfort and cannot possibly describe the magnitude of pain caused by the terrible tragedy,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said.
Families searcing for missing persons have been advised by the police to bring photos and dental records of their family members to a forensics unit in Tel Aviv.
The emergency services have made a public appeal for blood donations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who travelled to the scene, said: “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.”
He also declared Sunday as a day of national mourning.
NEWS/PHOTO SOURCE: National News | France24 | BBC | Reuters