A few hours after 45 people were pressed to death at an Israeli festival in honor of the Jewish festival Lag Baomer, more and more poignant stories of eyewitnesses emerge. “It felt like an eternity,” says one of the wounded about when it went wrong against local media. “All around me were dead people.”
Children died in the disaster. Some 150 people have been taken to hospitals according to aid organisations; some are in bad shape.
The head of emergency services says in a statement that it is “difficult to describe the extent of the disaster”. An ambulance worker, who was one of the first on the scene, describes the chaos he encountered: “It was difficult to see. Dozens of people were wounded in a narrow alley, some wounded walked around. People shouted in pain.”
On the Meron Mountain, believers gathered yesterday around the tomb of a second century rabbi. Fifty people may be present at the grave, but at some point there were more than five hundred. It was estimated that more than 100,000 people gathered at the festival.
“ The exit was not wide enough,” said an eyewitness at Haifa Hospital:
One of the wounded says he was almost pressed to death. “There were a lot of people on top of me. We fell over each other until the police decided to flip the fences and save people,” he says from the hospital to Times of Israel.
He kept calling for help: “I have a child at home, please help me. But nobody knew what to do. From above they threw water on us, thats all they could do at that moment”.
Day of National Mourning
Prime Minister Netanyahu has traveled to the crash site. He called what he saw “heartbreaking.” The Prime Minister has declared Sunday a national day of mourning.
President Rivlin is talking about a “terrible, painful day”. He had an emergency number set up to help people who lost their relatives.
Only twelve of the deceased were identified at the end of Friday afternoon, reporting local media. Traditionally, the victims still have to be buried today, but that is probably not going to happen anymore. The institute that must identify the bodies calls the process “complicated”. “We have to work accurately to avoid making mistakes,” says the director.