At least 45 dead, victims still being identified after stampede at religious gathering in Israel

Efforts were still underway Friday to identify victims and connect loved ones with missing relatives after a deadly stampede at a religious celebration in northern Israel killed at least 45 people.

In what is one of the country’s deadliest civilian disasters, about 100,000 people were crowded by Mount Meron for the celebration of Lag BaOmer, a holiday that, among other things, commemorates Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second century sage and mystic who is buried at the base of the mountain.

Zaka, one of the country’s ambulance service, confirmed the death toll had risen to 45. Around 150 people were injured with six in critical condition, said Zaki Heller, a spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue service.

Zaka spokesman Motti Bukchin said families were being notified and the bodies were being taken to a single location for identification. He said he expected the bodies to be buried before sundown of the Jewish Sabbath, when funerals do not take place. Bodies were later taken to Israel’s central forensic pathology institute.

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