It is believed that dozens more were hurt at the Lag B’Omer event at Mount Meron in Northern Israeal, where the Jewish annual commemorations included all-night prayers and dancing.
Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has described the stampede as a “heavy disaster”, with the event being posted across social media platforms, where men were pictured clambering through gaps in corrugated iron as they tried to escape the crushing of people in the early hours of the morning.
It has been described by witnesses as a near death experience, with one stating “I felt like I was about to die”.
One attendee, Shlomo Katz, went from talking about the standard “dancing” to seeing the rush of “pandemics running by, mid-CPR on kids”.
Following this, ambulances started to arrive “one after another” Katz added.
The Lag B’Omer event is attending by hundreds of thousands every year however this year it led to the death, and injuries, of many people.
This had come from “general bedlam” on a slippery metal slope followed by stairs, claimed Avraham Leibe from a hospital bed. To support this, paramedic Omri Gorga said that he saw “tens of people lying on the ground” with many “injured, walking and bleeding”.
Yitzhak, a pilgrim at the event, said that “no one could imagine that this could happen here” and that “rejoicing became mourning; a great light became a deep darkness”.
A spokesman for the Magen David Adom ambulance service stated that six people are in a critical condition after 150 were taken to hospital adding that “we went from a happy event to an immense tragedy”- exemplifying the sudden effect it had on the Israeli people.
Photographs illustrate rows of wrapped bodies lying on the ground with dozens of ambulances surrounding the scene, mobile intensive care units and helicopters transported the seriously injured to hospital.
Despite the harrowing tragedy, the response time was good and in full-force, with “close to 200 life-saving vehicles” being sent to the scene to reinforce an already “huge fleet” that was already there- said services spokesman Yoni Yagodozsky.
Boys and teenagers are still missing from a horrific incident that simply started from people tripping and then being walked on.
Policing of the situation has also been scrutinized, with the Haaretz newspaper quoting witnesses as saying police barricades had prevented people from exiting quickly. Police internal investigations have started with the Justice Ministry looking into the conduct of officers.
However, Yagodozsky said first responders are “well trained and well prepared” for these types of events and have had exercises anticipating such scenarios.
Yet there will be a “thorough investigation” following the “huge tragedy” Yagodozsky reassured.
Funerals are expected to happen today with the police shutting the site down and ordering attendees to evacuate via buses.
Being one of Israel’s deadliest civilian events, it has attracted the attention of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson where he described the incident as “devastating”, tweeting “my thoughts are with the Israeli people and those who have lost loved ones in this tragedy”.
“We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condoled.