AT LEAST 28 people have died and 50 people injured in a crush at a religious bonfire festival in Israel on Friday, local media reports.
Multiple casualties and fatalities were reported after a metal grandstand platform collapsed at the overcrowded celebration of the Jewish festival Lag B'Omer in Meron.
The Times of Israel has reported the dozens of fatalities in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a "heavy disaster".
Medics confirmed that dozens of people had been hurt at the event in northern Israel, where tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews were gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service said around 20 people had life-threatening injuries, while the ZAKA rescue service said 28 people had died.
Initial reports said a stand had collapsed at one of the concerts – however, rescue services said the tragedy was caused by a crush and overcrowding.
The IDF, which sent its 669 rescue team to the site, said a roof had collapsed.
On Twitter, Netanyahu called it a "heavy disaster" and added: "We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties."
Video from the scene showed rescue workers were attempting to set up a field hospital – and dozens of ambulances could be seen trying to navigate through the huge crowds.
The 10,000-strong gathering had been held in defiance of health officials who had worries that crowding could pose a Covid risk.
Around 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, with the cops urging pilgrims to avoid incidents during the feast when bonfires are lit.
Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers' efforts to keep order at the site.
This was the first huge religious gathering of its kind to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The country has seen cases plummet since launching one of the world's most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.
More to follow…
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