Israel stampede survivors reveal horror of kids crushed, worshippers gasping for air & piles of corpses as 45 dead

STAMPEDE survivors have revealed their horror at kids being crushed to death, worshippers left gasping for air and corpses piling up as 45 people were killed today.

The disaster unfolded at the overcrowded festival of Lag B'Omer in Meron, Israel just after midnight.





 

More than 100,000 people packed onto Mount Meron for the largest gathering held in the country since the Covid outbreak began.

Survivors revealed the horrific scenes at the festival, with chaos ensuing when attendees slipped on a narrow metal walkway as thousands tried to leave – causing the deadly crush as bodies piled into each other, injuring at least 150.

One survivor who was rushed hospital told public broadcaster Kan that he was left lying on someone who wasn't breathing.

He said: "There were screams, chaos. I saw children underneath me. The only thing going through my mind was that I didn't want my child to be an orphan."

Another survivor named David told Ynet: "Our bodies were swept along by themselves. People were thrown up in the air, others were crushed on the ground.

“There was a kid there who kept pinching my leg, fighting for his life. We waited to be rescued for 15 to 20 minutes in this crazy, terrible crush. it was awful.”

Another pilgrim said attendees were being pushed and pulled.

"After 20 minutes I think people started suffocating so they wanted to get out, but no-one was able to get out," he said.

There were people under me who were not breathing anymore. There were horrible screams of 'I can't breathe'."

It comes as…

  • Survivors claim that police were ‘blocking’ the exits during the crush horror
  • Eyewitnesses said they saw kids being crushed to death during the chaos
  • Worshippers claim crowds slipping on a walkway started death crush
  • A probe is being launched into the conduct of cops during the mayhem
  • Only 10,000 were supposed to attend but there was a crowd of 100,000 

Meir, who was injured in the crush, told Ynet from his hospital bed: “It felt like an eternity, the dead were all around us."

Witness Zohar said he saw victims "lose the colour in their faces".

“I was under the bleachers, I tried to go up toward all the chaos when I heard banging above, thud, thud, and people shouting ‘escape, escape, people are dying,'" he said.

“People fell from above and crushed each other, they squashed each other. people just fell, I will never forget the banging sounds, people flying all over."

Zohar added: “We were walking out, everything was flowing, suddenly it stopped.

“Everyone was pressed up against each other and we did not understand why. I lifted up my head and I saw police blocking the entrance, I shouted to them ‘people are dying here.'”

An early police investigation revealed that the slip created a "human avalanche", Ynet news reported.

Witnesses claimed cops blocked the exit – and a police chief has admitted that the tunnel was dangerous.





Eli Beer, the head of the Hatzalah rescue services organisation, said young children were among the victims.

“To my sorrow, we found small children who had been crushed, we tried to resuscitate them and managed in a few cases to save them,” he said.

“We have to wake up, it’s shocking how many people were allowed to enter."

Only 10,000 people were supposed to attend the event but a crowd of 100,000 turned up.

Shoes, hats, baby strollers, smashed glasses and water bottles were left strewn on the ground in the walkway, while metal railings were ripped from the ground.

It felt like an eternity, the dead were all around us

A probe has been launched into the possibility that police negligence caused the stampede.

Northern District Commander Shimon Lavi, who oversaw the security arrangements at the site, said Friday morning that he took responsibility for the disaster.

“I bear overall responsibility, for better or worse, and am ready for any investigation,” he said.

He added that the precise cause of the disaster remained unclear.

Investigators have been sent to Meron to gather evidence.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said: “It was decided that the Police Internal Investigations Department will immediately examine whether there are suspicions of criminality by police in the tragedy in Meron.”

Paramedic Dov Maisel described "chaotic" scenes as rescuers desperately scrambled to save as many lives as they could.

He told Good Morning Britain: "I started hearing screaming and shouting… and immediately all the teams were alerted to the scene.

"It's so troubling… many kids and teenagers were injured as well and families separated, it's chaos."




Mr Maisel said attendees were crushed as tens of thousands tried to force themselves through a narrow passageway.

He said: "It's a very small area on the mountain top, and thousands and thousands of people poured into this area, more than we expected.

"There was a bottleneck where people were squashed next to each other as they tried to get to an exit.

"People yelled behind them to stop people pushing through."

It was decided that the Police Internal Investigations Department will immediately examine whether there are suspicions of criminality by police in the tragedy in Meron

He said the disaster reminded him of terrorist attacks.

"I literally had a flashback to 20 years ago when Israel had a terror wave when restaurants and hospitals were being blown up, the scene was the same if not worse," he said.

"This is the worst disaster in Israeli history of a civilian event, this is shocking for the whole country."

Mr Maisel said 400 paramedics responded to the crush.

'HEAVY DISASTER'

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

MDA spokesman Zaki Heller told Ynet news that the deaths were caused by severe overcrowding.

The mass gathering took place at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations when the structure collapsed.

Videos posted on social media showed chaotic scenes as Ultra-Orthodox men clambered through gaps in sheets of torn corrugated iron to escape the crush, as police and paramedics tried to reach the wounded.

Initial reports said a stand had collapsed at one of the concerts – however, rescue services said the tragedy was caused by a crush and overcrowding.

The disaster is one of the worst peacetime tragedies in Israel’s history, matching the death toll from the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire.

What is the Lag B’Omer festival?

LAG B’Omer is a Jewish religious holiday celebrated on the 33rd day of the Counting of the Omer, which began on March 28 and ends on May 16.

The day in the Hebrew month of Iya marks commemorates Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who lived in the second century.

The day marks when he revealed the secrets of kabbalah – a school of thought in Jewish mysticism – in the Zohar, or Book of Splendor.

The festival includes the lighting of bonfires, pilgrimages to the tomb of bar Yochai in Meron and customs at the tomb.

Another tradition that makes it a day of celebration is the anniversary of the plague that killed leading Jewish scholar Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 disciples coming to an end around 100AD.






The IDF, which sent its 669 rescue team to the site, said a roof had collapsed at the festival.

A pilgrim at the festival told a local news channel: "We thought maybe there was a [bomb] alert over a suspicious package.

To my sorrow, we found small children who had been crushed, we tried to resuscitate them and managed in a few cases to save them

"No one imagined that this could happen here. Rejoicing became mourning, a great light became a deep darkness."

Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Everyone is praying for the recovery of the injured."

Zaki Heller said that due to the overcrowding, it took some time to help people who had been trapped.

"The rescue teams were called to one of the concerts near Bar Yochai’s tomb, where there was a terrible crush near a building. There were dozens trapped on a nearby stand and it took time to evacuate them," Heller said.


Other videos from the scene showed rescue workers were attempting to set up a field hospital – and dozens of ambulances could be seen trying to navigate through the huge crowds.

Reports indicate that around 100,000 people may have been attending the night's events, despite health officials warning that people should not gather in large crowds even as Covid cases were plummeting across Israel.

Around 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, with the cops urging pilgrims to avoid incidents during the feast when bonfires are lit.

Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers' efforts to keep order at the site.

The country has seen Covid cases plummet since launching one of the world's most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.

The tomb is also considered to be one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world and it is an annual pilgrimage site.






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