At least 44 people have lost their lives in a stampede during a religious festival in Israel.

A BBC report quoted the national emergency service Magen David Adom (MDA) as saying that dozens more were wounded during the Lag B’Omer festival at the foot of Mount Meron.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has termed the incident as a “heavy disaster” and said he was praying for the people who died in the stampede.

According to reports, tens of thousands of people attended the religious festival amid Covid19 pandemic.

A number of ambulances rushed to the spot and emergency services laid out bodies under foil covers on the ground.

Police asked everyone at the incident site to evacuate the area.

The report quoted emergency officials as saying that 38 people were in critical condition at the site with six more critically injured but evacuated and scores more injured less seriously.

It has been reported that it started after some attendees slipped on some steps which caused more other people to fall.

“It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster,” said a witness.

The videos which have gone viral on social media show thousands of people tightly packed together for the event, before struggling to flee the chaos as the incident took place.

A man told Channel 12 TV: “No one imagined that this could happen here,” adding, “Rejoicing became mourning, a great light became a deep darkness.”

Yanki Farber, a reporter with Orthodox Jewish website Behadrei Haredim told BBC: “Over a thousand people together tried to go down a very, very small place, very narrow road and they just fell on top of each other.”

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