2 Dead, More Than 150 Injured In Synagogue Bleacher Collapse : NPR

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli medics said at least two people were killed and more than 150 injured after a grandstand collapsed in an incomplete synagogue in the West Bank on Sunday, the eve of a major Jewish holiday.

The stands were full of ultra-Orthodox worshipers and collapsed during the prayers at the beginning of Shavuot. A spokesman for Magen David Adom told Channel 13 that paramedics treated over 157 people for injuries and pronounced two dead, a man in his fifties and a 12-year-old boy.

Rescue workers were on site, treating the injured and taking people to the hospital. The collapse comes weeks after 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews were killed in a rush to a religious festival in northern Israel.

Amateur footage showed the collapse on Sunday during evening prayers in Givat Zeev, just outside Jerusalem. The ultra-orthodox synagogue was packed with hundreds of people.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it dispatched medics and other search and rescue forces to provide assistance on the ground. Army helicopters flew the injured.

The Israeli authorities blamed it.

The mayor of Givat Zeev said the building was unfinished and dangerous and the police had ignored previous calls to action. Jerusalem Police Chief Doron Turgeman said the disaster was a case of “negligence” and arrests would likely result.

Deddi Simhi, head of the Israeli fire and rescue service, told Israeli Channel 12: “This building is not finished yet. It does not even have a usage permit, let alone events in it.”

Television footage of the scene showed that the building was incomplete, with exposed concrete and boards and plastic sheeting for the windows. A sign in Hebrew posted on one wall of the building warned that “access to the site is prohibited for security reasons”.

The accident came weeks after a rush to a religious festival in northern Israel that killed 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews, the deadliest civil disaster in the country’s history.

The April 29 rush to Mount Meron came after years of warnings that the sacred site was unsafe for the tens of thousands of visitors it attracts each year for the Lag Baomer holiday.

This year’s celebrations attended around 100,000 people, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, after powerful ultra-Orthodox politicians reportedly pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others to lift restrictions on participation.

Experts had long warned that the Mount Meron complex was not adequately equipped to handle the enormous crowds that gather there during the spring break and that the existing state of the infrastructure posed a security risk.

The disaster sparked renewed criticism of the broad autonomy granted to the country’s politically powerful ultra-Orthodox minority.

In the past year, many ultra-Orthodox communities violated coronavirus safety restrictions, which contributed to high outbreak rates in their communities and angered the broad secular public.

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