Israeli security guards and rescuers stand around the bodies of victims who died during the Lag Ba’Omer celebrations on Mount Meron. Ishay Jerusalemite / Behadrei Haredim / AP
Israeli investigators are investigating what caused a crush that killed at least 44 believers at a mass religious gathering in Mount Meron overnight.
Thousands of devotees had crowded the mountain tomb to celebrate Lag B’Omer, an annual event to pay homage to the second-century Mishnah sage Rabbi Shim Bar Yochai.
But in the early hours of Friday morning, the singing and dancing erupted into chaos when a huge wave of people trapped others, including children, among them, witnesses told Reuters.
“We were going to go inside to dance and stuff and all of a sudden we saw MADA paramedics running past like in the middle of CPR on children and then one by one,” said Shlomo Katz.
Another participant, Wice Israel, said he saw people fall to the ground. “It was crowded and there were about 60,000 to 70,000 people, no place to move, and people fell to the ground, a lot fell to the ground,” he said.
Dov Maisel of United Hatzalah, a voluntary emergency organization, told CNN that an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people had been on the mountain.
He said thousands of people packed tightly in a confined space fell down a flight of stairs and knocked each other down. “Overall, they usually control the crowd, but at some point at the peak the crowd got too tight,” Maisel said.