While the latest report now shows at least 44 dead, the latter has continued to grow over the night.
Rescuers and medical sources passed it from 20 wounded to "dozens" of dead, then more than 40 deaths at the end of this tragedy at Mount Meron, in northern Israel.
🇮🇱 - INITIAL REPORT: Several injured after a Metal section reportedly collapsed in Meron during Lag Baomer celebrations.
Several seriously injured.
Updates to follow.
- Belaaz (@TheBelaaz) April 29, 2021
In the middle of the night, the flashing lights of dozens of ambulances twinkled near the scene of the accident as rescuers evacuated bodies and the wounded.
And in the morning, the situation was tense as pilgrims cursed the police on the spot.
Rescuers had initially mentioned the collapse of stands to explain these injured, before speaking of a giant "stampede".
Several victims after the collapse of a structure in #Meron in Israel during a festival
- Gabriel Hébert-Røuillier (@Gab_H_R) April 30, 2021
Images relayed on social networks show a procession cutting through a hyper-compact crowd and approaching a metal structure where religious are standing near a fire.
The exact circumstances leading up to the mob scenes were unclear on Friday, but a rescuer Yehuda Gottleib, working for United Hatzalah, said he saw men being "crushed" and "losing consciousness", according to his organization. .
"Pray to save the wounded"
"Huge disaster at Mount Meron," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted in Hebrew overnight, calling on the population to "pray to save the wounded".
"All of Israel is praying for the healing of the survivors," added opposition leader Yair Lapid, saying he was following the developments with "anxiety".
Tens of thousands of people took part on the night of Thursday to Friday in an annual pilgrimage to northern Israel for the largest public event in the country since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pilgrimage, which takes place on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Lag Baomer, is held in Méron, around the alleged tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochaï, a talmudist of the 2nd century of the Christian era who is credited with writing the Zohar , central work of Jewish mysticism.
🚑🇮🇱 How ended the catastrophe of Mount #Meron in #Israel ...
The bodies of the #victims await the #Ambulances who arrive by the dozen on the pilgrimage site.
- MediaFrance24 🌐 (@ MediaFrance24) April 30, 2021
Lag Baomer is a joyous feast marking moreover the memory of the end of a devastating epidemic among the pupils of a Talmudic school at that time.
The authorities had allowed the presence of 10,000 people in the enclosure of the tomb but, according to the organizers, more than 650 buses were chartered in all the country, that is to say at least 30,000 people, while the local press reported 100 000 people on site.
250,000 participants in 2019
But after midnight, emergency calls for rescuers multiplied, and six helicopters were deployed to evacuate the wounded to hospitals in Safed and Nahariya, two towns in the north of the country. Contacted by AFP, the Israeli army confirmed having deployed helicopters to rescue the victims. And in Safed, an AFP journalist saw wounded being transported by helicopters to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where funerals are expected later this Friday.
Monster traffic jams on the roads leading to the north of the country were reported by the police who had deployed 5,000 agents to ensure the safety of this event. In 2019, a year before the pandemic which had forced the cancellation of the pilgrimage in 2020, the organizers estimated at 250,000 the number of pilgrims who went there. Thanks to an intense vaccination campaign which made it possible to vaccinate 80% of the population over the age of 20, Israel reopened bars and restaurants in early March and authorized large outdoor gatherings.