Survivors of the stampede that killed at least 44 people at the Lag BaOmer celebrations in northern Israel described a scene of horror as they found themselves trapped in the crush and surrounded by the dead.
"There were moments I felt like I was going to die," said Avreimi Nivin from Jerusalem.
"There were people beneath me who were not breathing - children and old people. All I could think about was my three-month-old baby. I did not want him to grow up an orphan," he said.
Nivin, who was evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in nearby Safed, said the disaster began when people were trying to leave the enclosure used by the Toldos Aharon Hassidic sect.
"Some people slipped and fell, and others just fell on top of them. People started screaming and at some point, just stopped breathing," he said.
"Even when rescue workers arrived, they pulled people out like pieces of a puzzle, finding what limbs belonged to what person. After the police removed the barriers on both sides, some of the pressure on us was lifted," he said.
Chaim Wertheim, who was also transported to the Safed hospital, said he thought the ground was wet, causing people to slip.
"It was slippery and for some reason people stopped moving, but others from behind just kept coming. Hundreds were shouting that they could not breathe. I passed out a few times," he said.
Dvir Cohen described how what began as an orderly exit turned into a crush.
"Big people collapsed onto little people. Hundreds fell on top of me," he said.
"The emergency teams let anyone who could, help out and people were simply pulled out of the pile like Logo bricks. I was trapped for something like 10 minutes but thank God I did not break any bones and I am fine," he said.
Rabbi Aharon Boimel, leader of the Berditchev Hassidic dynasty from Jerusalem, said he avoided the Toldos Aharon compound the entire evening fearing disaster.
"We've warned of overcrowding there in the past - and what we feared most happened. If police had not positioned barricades at the compound the disaster would have been greater," said Boimel, who was visiting the injured at the hospital.
First published: 08:25 , 04.30.21