Over 40 people lost their lives while 150 others were hospitalized after a stampede broke out during a Jewish religious festival, the first mass event in Israel since COVID-19 restrictions ended.
Israel experienced one of the deadliest civilian disasters in its history when a stampede occurred early Friday at a Jewish religious festival of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron.
In the stampede's aftermath, at least 44 people, including five children, were killed, while 150 people sustained injuries. Tens of thousands of people in northern Israel attended the festival.
Police trying to control crowd at Jewish festival | Photo: YouTube.com/thesun
The religious festival is the first mass event in the Jewish nation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every year, tens of thousands of people gather to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Following the stampede, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a great tragedy and said everyone was praying for the victims.
Eli Beer who is the director of the Hatzalah rescue service said he was alarmed by how crowded the festival was. He said the site was equipped to handle a quarter of the people who were at the event.
Police attributed the cause of the stampede to a human avalanche that started after people fell in an overcrowded stairway. Videos on social media show that a large number of worshippers were packed together in tight spaces.
Dvir, a 24-year-old man who witnessed the stampede, said masses of people were pushed into the same corner, creating a vortex. He further revealed that those on the first row fell to the ground.
Afterward, a second row, where he stood, began to fall from the stampede's pressure. He said he thought he was going to die during the stampede.
Israel is not the only country that has ended its COVID-19 restrictions. India has also seen a number of public events over the past few weeks.
However, there has been a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the Asian country, with WHO experts and leading doctors saying large gatherings have played a part in the dramatic rise in cases.