Chicago Tribune (Sunday)

Children, teens under 18 among dead after stampede in Israel


JERUSALEM — At least 10 children and teens younger than 18 were among 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews killed in a stampede at a religious festival in northern Israel, according to a partial list of names published Saturday as the identifica­tion of victims in Israel’s deadliest civilian disaster continued.

Four Americans, a Canadian and a man from Argentina were also among those killed. Two families each lost two children. The youngest victim was 9 years old.

Meanwhile, calls were growing louder Saturday for establishi­ng an official commission of inquiry, in part to gauge the responsibi­lity of politician­s and senior decision-makers for allowing the mass gathering to take place, despite repeated warnings over the years about safety lapses.

The stampede early Friday had cut short the annual festival of Lag BaOmer on Israel’s Mount Meron. The festival had drawn some 100,000 people in the largest gathering so far this year as Israel’s successful vaccinatio­n campaign allowed the country to emerge from coronaviru­s restrictio­ns.

As large numbers of people began to leave one of the events at the festival, they thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage that sloped downward and ended with a series of steps. The floor had become slippery with spilled water and juice, according to witnesses. As some in the crowd slipped, those behind them fell on top of those on the ground.

Veteran paramedic Yossi Halabi told Israel TV’s Channel 12 on Saturday that he “encountere­d a wall of bodies” after he was first alerted to the disaster from his nearby post. He said it took him and fellow rescuers about 40 minutes to extract the dead and wounded from the chaos.

He said that it was “one of the worst if not the worst incident” he had seen in 30 years on the job.

Israeli media said 32 of the 45 victims were identified before the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown Friday. Of those, 22 were laid to rest before the Sabbath. The identifica­tion of the remaining victims and burials were to resume after sundown Saturday.

Teacher suspended: A New Jersey high school teacher has been suspended with pay after profanity-laced comments to students in his class about George Floyd, the man killed by a former Minneapoli­s police officer.

A recording aired by WNBC-TV shows Dickinson High School science teacher Howard Zlotkin talking about Floyd and Black Lives Matter during what was supposed to be a climate change discussion in a landscape and design Zoom class.

Zlotkin, who is white, is heard to say people are “whining and crying about Black Lives Matter,” and he then refers to Floyd with a profanity as a “criminal” who “got arrested and he got killed because he wouldn’t comply.” Another profanity is heard as he continues that Floyd is being treated as a “hero.”

The video and one taken the next day also included a profanity directed at a student and a vulgar gesture, WNBC reported. The student said Zlotkin grew irate when she and three other students challenged his position, and the four were told to write an essay on “why Black lives should matter” — an assignment not given to other students.

Superinten­dent Franklin Walker told that the language used was “unacceptab­le.” He said the district is investigat­ing the situation and that police have also been notified “because some of it could be at the same level as a hate crime.”

The teachers’ union declined comment until it has more informatio­n, union president Ron Greco said.

Japan quake: A strong earthquake struck off northern Japan early Saturday, leaving three people injured and shaking buildings in Tokyo, authoritie­s said.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit at a depth of 30 miles off the coast of Miyagi prefecture.

Two people were injured in Miyagi and another in the neighborin­g prefecture of Fukushima, but none of the injuries were life-threatenin­g, said the Fire and Disaster

Management Agency.

Miyagi prefecture, in the country’s rugged northeast, was heavily damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 people dead.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalit­ies were reported at nuclear plants, including the Fukushima Daiichi, which melted down following the 2011 disaster.

TSA on masks: The Transporta­tion Security Administra­tion said it will extend its mask requiremen­t, which also applies in airports and train stations, through Sept. 13. The rule took effect Feb. 1 and was set to expire May 11.

The agency said that children up to 2 and people with certain disabiliti­es will continue to be exempted from the mask rule.

Violations can carry fines of up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.

Separately, a spokeswoma­n for the Federal Aviation Administra­tion said Friday that the FAA will continue its zero-tolerance policy against disruptive airline passengers as long as the TSA mask rule is in effect.

The FAA is seeking much larger civil penalties — some topping $30,000 — against a small number of passengers that it accuses of interferin­g with airline crews.

Yemen flooding: Floods swept through parts of Yemen amid heavy seasonal rains, leaving at least 13 people dead, including two children, security officials said Saturday.

Fatalities were reported in the provinces of Sanaa, Ibb, Shabwa and Hodeida, where it began raining late last month, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Heavy rains also pelted the provinces of Aden, Taiz and Hadramawt, where flooding damaged houses and vehicles, they said.

Rescuers managed to save some residents trapped in their cars.

Yemen’s rainy season runs from April through August.

Somali election crisis: The controvers­ial two-year term extension for Somalia’s president evaporated Saturday after intense public pressure, as the lower house of parliament approved his request to instead support efforts to organize the country’s long-delayed election.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed asked lawmakers to retreat from their decision last month to extend his time in office. The extension had been blasted by the Senate as illegal and opposed by soldiers who took up key positions in the capital and clashed with other security forces.

Saturday’s actions mean a return to talks on how to carry out the election that has been delayed since early February, when some Somalis believe the president’s term ended.

 ??  ?? hold candles as during the ceremony of the Holy Fire at Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday in the Old City of Jerusalem. Many Christians believe that the site is where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Worshipper­s gathered in the wake of Israel easing restrictio­ns during the coronaviru­s pandemic.
hold candles as during the ceremony of the Holy Fire at Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday in the Old City of Jerusalem. Many Christians believe that the site is where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. Worshipper­s gathered in the wake of Israel easing restrictio­ns during the coronaviru­s pandemic.

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