The tragedy that plagued Israel today resulted in 45 pilgrims being crushed to death and 150 others injured, after a stampede broke out at the end of a religious holiday celebration on Lag B’Omer on Mount Meron in Galilee in northern Israel.

Panic swept through the thousands attending the event just after midnight when the safety system on a ramped walkway failed, and people slipped on top of others at the bottom, the Times of Israel reports today, April 30. 

The catastrophe, which is considered one of the most tragic in peacetime, plunges Israelis into mourning and grief. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “terrible disaster.”

The report issued by the Magen David Adom rescue service related that 38 people had died at the site. Its paramedic teams treated many more people, including 18 in serious condition, two who were moderately injured and 80 slightly injured. 

Meanwhile, the Ziv hospital reported that six of the injured had died, and the Ministry of Health later confirmed the total number of dead at 45.

Others of the wounded were transferred to Safed hospital, the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, Rambam hospital in Haifa, Poriya hospital in Tiberias, and Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, reports Times of Israel. 

Army Radio reported that children were among the dead and wounded. An estimated 100,000 people attended the celebration, which included concerts. 

According to DW, authorities had authorized 10,000 people to gather at the tomb site, but organizers said more than 650 buses were chartered from across the country, bringing 30,000 pilgrims to Meron.

Some 5,000 police were deployed to secure the event, and police urged pilgrims to avoid incidents during the festival when bonfires are lit.

The festival brought together the largest crowd of people on record after the CCP (Communist Party of China) virus pandemic to attend the annual gathering in northern Galilee.

Part of the millennial celebration included visits to the tomb of the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, and huge bonfires were lit on the mountainside.

Rescue operations were underway Friday morning to evacuate the remaining people still at the site. In addition, emergency services were working to identify the victims, including children. 

For its part, the Transportation Ministry had sent 300 empty buses to rescue the worshippers, but they were reportedly stuck in traffic due to the lack of police management of the event, according to The Jerusalem Post. 

Also, more than 250 ambulances and six helicopters rushed to the scene to evacuate the injured, according to reports from the medical services in charge of the rescue operations. 

A field hospital was also set up at the scene as an emergency measure. Israel Police and IDF soldiers worked to evacuate the injured and clear the crowd.

The congestion caused telephone service at the scene to collapse as thousands of people tried to contact family members and emergency services.