10 boys and teens identified among Meron casualties

Two families each lost two children, with the youngest victim only nine years old.

By Associated Press

At least 10 children and teens younger than 18 were among the victims killed in the disaster at a religious festival in northern Israel, according to a partial list of names published Saturday as the identification of victims in Israel’s deadliest civilian disaster continued.

Four Americans, a Canadian and a man from Argentina were also among those killed. Two families each lost two children. The youngest victim was nine years old.

The tragedy early Friday had cut short the annual festival of Lag BaOmer on Israel’s Mount Meron.

The festival had drawn some 100,000 people in the largest gathering so far this year as Israel’s successful vaccination campaign allowed the country to emerge from coronavirus restrictions.

As large numbers of people began to leave one of the events at the festival, they thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage that sloped downward and ended with a series of steps.

The floor had become slippery with spilled water and juice, according to witnesses. As some in the crowd slipped, those behind them fell on top of those on the ground.

According to several reports, 32 of the 45 victims were identified before the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown Friday.

Of those, 22 were laid to rest before the Sabbath. The identification of the remaining victims and burials resumed after sundown Saturday.

Sixteen people remained hospitalized, including three in serious condition.

Lag BaOmer is a popular festival day in Israel, which honors Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd-century sage and mystic who is buried at Mount Meron. The crowds light bonfires, dance and have large festive meals as part of the celebrations. Across the country, even in secular areas, groups gather in parks and forests for barbecues and bonfires.