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2 dead in collapse of synagogue bleacher: NPR

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli medics say two people have died and more than 150 injured after a bleacher collapsed in an unfinished West Bank synagogue.

The bleacher was filled with ultra-Orthodox worshipers and collapsed during prayers at the start of a big Jewish holiday. A Magen David Adom spokesperson told Channel 13 paramedics treated more than 157 people for injuries and reported two dead, a man in his 50s and a boy of 12.

Rescuers are on the scene, treating the injured and taking people to hospital. The collapse comes weeks after 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews were killed in a stampede at a religious holiday in northern Israel.

Amateur footage showed the collapse during Sunday night prayers in Givat Zeev, just outside Jerusalem, at the start of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. The ultra-Orthodox synagogue was packed with hundreds of people.

The IDF said in a statement that it had sent medics and other search and rescue troops to assist at the scene. Army helicopters transported the wounded by plane.

The Israeli authorities have passed the blame at the scene of the disaster.

The mayor of Givat Zeev said the building was unfinished and unsafe, and police ignored previous calls for action. Jerusalem Police Chief Doron Turgeman said the disaster was a case of “negligence” and that there would likely be arrests.

Deddi Simhi, head of Israel’s fire and rescue service, told Israel’s Channel 12 that “this building is not finished. It doesn’t even have an occupancy permit, let alone there. organize events”.

Television footage of the scene showed the building to be incomplete, with exposed concrete and planks visible.

The crash comes weeks after a stampede at a religious holiday in northern Israel that killed 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The stampede sparked further criticism of the broad autonomy granted to the country’s powerful ultra-Orthodox minority.

Over the past year, many ultra-Orthodox communities flouted coronavirus-related security restrictions, contributing to high epidemic rates in their communities and angering the general secular public.

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