Minutes after the stampede disaster at the Lag BaOmer festivities on Mount Meron, in which at least 45 revelers were killed and as many as 150 others were injured, footage from the incident started surfacing on social media overnight Friday, depicting the bedlam that ensued at the site, the cries of the victims and failed rescue attempts in one of the biggest civilian disasters in Israel's history.
At least 38 victims were pronounced dead at the scene while six others have passed away after they were evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in Safed.
In one video, security personnel can be heard imploring the terrified crowd to clear a path and allow first responders with stretchers to reach injured members of the crowd as thousands were still trying to flee the scene.
According to police estimates, over 100,000 people arrived on Mount Meron to celebrate the holiday at the gravesite of 2nd-century tannaitic sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.
Police blocked all roads leading to the area and the military deployed helicopters of the Airborne Combat Rescue and Evacuation Unit 669 to the scene as evacuation efforts continued until after 3am.
A preliminary police investigation revealed that several attendees slipped down a staircase and on top of other pilgrims at the site, creating a "human avalanche" that crushed members of the crowd.
Cellular networks at the site and the surrounding area crashed as worried families tried to contact relatives on the scene and Israel Police launched an emergency hotline for further information. hospitals also set up hotlines for inquiries.
Police asked the public to not come to the area as visitors were making their way to shuttles waiting for them off the site. Israel Railway bolstered its operations to allow revelers to return home safely.
Israel Fire and Rescue Services and Magen David Adom rescue service relayed that dozens became trapped at the scene, and that the heavy crowding hindered evacuation efforts.
Israel Police Northern District Commander Maj. Gen. Shimon Lavi
"As soon as we received a call about the event, I announced a mass-casualty incident. At this point, our efforts were mainly focused on saving lives," Lavi said. "Together with Magen David Adom, we made sure no one got trapped and evacuated all the injured, some with IDF helicopters."
Hatzalah emergency service spokesman Avi Markus said that rescue teams were providing medical attention to a large number of people at the scene who were suffering from shock.
"This is a very difficult situation with dozens of casualties at the scene, some of whom were unfortunately pronounced dead upon arrival due to the severe nature of the injuries they sustained," Markus said. "The Mental Health First Aid Unit provided and is providing assistance to a large number of people who suffered from shock."
President Reuven Rivlin said he was following incoming reports from the disaster with great concern and was praying for the recovery of those injured.
“This is a terrible, painful day," the president said in a statement Friday.
"A heartbreaking tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and with the families of the victims and the missing in the awful tragedy on Mount Meron last night.
"I send my heartfelt thanks to those who have been working tirelessly since last night to rescue and provide medical treatment. This is the time to embrace the families, help all those looking for their missing loved ones and keep the injured in our hearts. To mourn together.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who later arrived at the scene, took to Twitter to send a pray for the recovery of the injured and show his support of the rescue forces at the scene.
Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who was present at the site at the time of the disaster, called on "all the people of Israel to unite… and pray for the recovery of the injured."