Israel’s emergency service director General Eli Bin said on Friday that the Mount Meron crush is “one of the most difficult civil disasters the State of Israel has ever known.”
“It is difficult to contain the magnitude of the disaster,” Bin, who heads Israel’s Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service, added in a Friday statement.
Following the incident that killed dozens, the MDA provided medical care to 150 people, the statement said.
Bin said a complex security operation had been in place in preparation for the religious festival and that on Thursday morning they had participated in a large exercise led by police.
“Yesterday morning we participated in a large exercise led by the Israel Police and did not imagine that we would find ourselves in such a complex and difficult event. All the forces acted quickly and with dedication in a very difficult and complex arena, in coordination and cooperation with all the factors,” Bin said in the statement.
MDA paramedic Omri Hochman, who was one of the first to arrive to treat the injured, recalled the chaos: “We arrived and there was a big commotion, dozens of people ran in our direction, they shouted at us where to go and told us that there were dozens of people injured. The sights were very difficult, dozens of wounded lay in a narrow corridor and next to it. Dozens more walked around suffering from various injuries. There were cries of pain, sighs and there were those who lost consciousness and needed resuscitation.”
Maor Atadgi, another MDA paramedic added: “We rescued the injured from piles of people and performed resuscitation operations on people who were fatally wounded. Our large forces rescued the wounded, some to MDA clinics and some to ambulances. In all my years at MDA, I do not remember such a heavy disaster.”
Every year, MDA forces are stationed at Mount Meron for the Lag B’Omer festival, with hundreds of ambulances, intensive care vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs and unique rescue vehicles and clinics adapted to secure the event, the MDA said.
Calls began to arrive on Friday morning at 12:49 a.m. local time for distressed casualties near the “Toldot Aharon” celebration, near the rabbi’s tomb in Meron, the statement said.
A “multi-casualty incident” was immediately declared and MDA forces from around the country were deployed, the statement concluded.