The death toll in Israel has risen to 45 in the human stampede on Thursday night and early Friday morning on a Jewish holiday, a tragic event that has shocked the country and prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare Sunday a day of mourning.
“I would like to declare Sunday a day of national mourning. Let us all join in the grief of the families and pray for the welfare of the injured,” said the head of government when visiting the site of the tragedy on Mount Meron in the Galilee, in the north of the country, where the identification of nearly fifty fatalities continues.
Netanyahu assured that the human avalanche of this early morning, while tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrated with songs, dances and bonfires the holiday of Lag Baomer, “is one of the worst disasters that the State of Israel has suffered”.
“Our hearts go out to the families and the injured, to whom we wish a speedy recovery,” he added, lamenting the “heartbreaking scenes” at the site last night.
Many people “were crushed to death, including children,” added the prime minister, who specified that “many of the victims have not yet been identified,” so he urged to avoid spreading rumors on social networks and asked to “let the authorities work.”
At the same time, he praised the police forces, emergency medical teams and rescue forces for having carried out “a rapid task” of relief and having prevented “a much worse disaster”.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also honored the memory of the victims by lighting 45 candles for each of them in front of his official residence in Jerusalem, where an emergency call center was opened to help families searching for loved ones still unaccounted for since the incident.
“This is a terrible and painful day. A heartbreaking tragedy,” lamented Rivlin, who also sent his “heartfelt thanks to those who have been working tirelessly since last night to rescue and provide medical treatment” to all those affected.
At the site of the tragedy, the remnants of the devastation speak for themselves: covered corpses, hats or other black garments characteristic of ultra-Orthodox Jews mark the images.
Families unable to locate their loved ones are heading straight to forensic medicine centers to identify the bodies of the dead.
Police launched inquiries to investigate last night’s stampede in detail, and the Prosecutor’s Office announced that it would open an investigation into possible police negligence in the security management of the event.