Medics described seeing victims’ phones lit up with calls from desperate loved ones (Picture:AP)
Medics called to the scene of a stampede which killed dozens of Jewish worshippers described seeing victims’ mobile phones lighting up with calls from loved ones desperate to find them.
At least 45 people were crushed to death and more than 100 injured
in the disaster at a mass gathering celebrating the Lag B’Omer holiday on the slopes of Israel’s Mount Meron early on Friday. The victims reportedly include two brothers aged nine and 14.
Huge crowds numbering up to 100,000 had attended what was the first large-scale religious event since almost all coronavirus restrictions were lifted in the country earlier this year.
The exact cause of the stampede remains unclear, although some witnesses said a group of worshippers had slipped on a staircase, forcing others down into a narrow tunnel where they were crushed.
Others have pointed the finger of blame at the Israeli police for barricading part of the tunnel to control crowd flows, turning it into a deadly bottleneck.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it ‘one of the worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel’ when he visited the scene on Friday and declared Sunday a national day of mourning.
Paramedics scrambled to the tunnel described it as one of the worst scenes they have ever encountered.
Officials stand by rows of bodies (Picture: AP)
Mourners carry the body of one of the victims (Picture: AP)
Mourners attend the funeral of one of those killed in the crush (Picture: AP)
One, Levy Steinmatz, told the
Telegraph: ‘There was nothing we could do, and they kept bringing more [bodies]. It was madness.’
Describing the yarmulkes, shoes and glasses that lay strewn among the bodies and wreckage, he said: ‘It looked like a scene from the Holocaust.’
He added: ‘It is shocking to think about the last moments of those who died when people were stepping on them. It is really shocking.’
Zaka, an Israeli emergency services group, said their paramedics saw victims’ mobile phones lighting up with calls from ‘Mum’ and ‘my dear wife’.
A spokesperson, Motti Bokchin, told Army Radio: ‘It’s unfathomable.’
Belongings lay strewn among the bodies (Picture: AP)
The body of Rabbi Eliezer Goldberg is carried before his funeral in Jerusalem on Friday (Picture: AP)
Medics described it as the worst scene they have ever attended (Picture: AP)
Mourners gather next to the house of victim Menahem Zachach (Picture: Heidi Levine/Sipa Press/Rex)
Phone coverage in the area collapsed under huge demand as the night wore on and family members frantically tried to get hold of loved ones.
The Israeli Health Ministry said 32 of the dead had been identified by late Friday.
The identification process paused for 24 hours in observance of the Jewish Sabbath and would resume on Saturday evening.
More than 20 of the people injured were still in hospital by Friday night.
The Queen has sent a message of condolence to the president of Israel, saying she was ‘deeply saddened’ by the incident, and that her thoughts were with the families of those who lost their lives.
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