Israel holds day of mourning for 45 stampede victims

| May 03, 2021 | Updated 11:09 am

Israel holds day of mourning for 45 stampede victims Israelis light candles for the 45 victims who were killed in a stampede (Tomer Neuberg/JINI via Xinhua)

JERUSALEM: Israel observed a national day of mourning on Sunday for 45 people who were killed in a stampede disaster at Mount Meron on Thursday night.

Flags were lowered to half-mast across Israel and the country’s diplomatic missions abroad, and cultural and sports events were cancelled.

The incident was described as one of Israel’s worst civilian disasters since the founding of the country in 1948. Besides at least 13 children and teenagers aged under 18, the 45 ultra-Orthodox victims also include six US citizens, an Argentinian and a Canadian.

Jews light candles for the 45 victims at the point where the tragedy happened (David Cohen/JINI via Xinhua)

Calls to appoint an investigation committee chaired by a judge have increased on Sunday amid anger towards authorities for overlooking repeated warnings by experts of possible overcrowding.

Also on Sunday, a group of retired police chiefs and commissioners issued a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to launch a national committee with wide-ranging authority to investigate.

People attend the funeral of a victim of the stampede disaster at Mount Meron, in Jerusalem on April 30, 2021. (JINI via Xinhua)

Tens of thousands of people gathered on Thursday for a traditional festival to mark the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. The stampede is believed to start when people moved through a narrow passageway with slippery metal flooring.

The tragedy happened on Mount Meron in northern Israel. The rescue service said 6 helicopters and dozens of ambulances had evacuated the wounded to the Ziv hospital in Safed and the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya.