A stampede at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel has killed at least 44 people and injured about 150 early Friday, medical officials said.
Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency service, said that at least 44 people were killed during the event early on Friday, adding “MDA is fighting for the lives of dozens wounded, and will not give up until the last victim is evacuated.”
Zaki Heller, spokesman for the Magen David Adom, said that among the 150 people who had been hospitalized, six were in critical condition.
On social media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “heavy disaster” and added: “We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties.”
The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews were participating in an annual pilgrimage for the feast of Lag BaOmer, in Mount Meron, around the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage.
The incident began when large numbers of people trying to exit the site thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage, according to witnesses. People began falling on top of each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended slippery metal stairs, witnesses said.