Israeli medical officials said Friday that a stampede broke out during the Jewish religious festival of Lag BaOmer in the country’s northern region, killing at least 44 and injuring at least 150.
The incident—one of the deadliest civilian disasters in the country’s history—occurred at Mount Meron. The event attracted tens of thousands from the ultra-Orthodox community. The stampede started when some revelers tripped on steps and created a dozens more to fall, police sources told Haaretz.
The New York Times reported that some estimated that about 100,000 people were at the location. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “terrible disaster.”
Eli Beer, director of the Hatzalah rescue service, said he was horrified by how crowded the event was, saying the site was equipped to handle perhaps a quarter of the number who were there.
One witness told the Army Radio station that “masses of people were pushed into the same corner and a vortex was created.”
He said a first row of people fell down, and then a second row, where he was standing, also began to fall down from the pressure of the stampede.
“I felt like I was about to die,” he said.
The Times of Israel reported that children were among the causalities. Rescuers told the paper that there were dozens of children whose parents were not answering the phone after the incident.
The Associated Press contributed to this report