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Explosion at London Lag B’Omer bonfire injures tens

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gather around a bonfire in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 6, 2015, during the Lag Ba'Omer holiday, marking the end of a plague said to have decimated Jews during the Roman times
AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner
A Jewish volunteer emergency medical service ‘Hatzola’ said it provided a 'mega response team'

A bonfire explosion in London’s neighborhood of Stamford Hill during the Jewish celebration of the Lag B’Omer festival has left up to thirty people injured, the Daily Express reported on Thursday.

The blast was said to have been caused by a mobile phone, according to the report.

However, Jewish news website The Yeshiva World said that, “the explosion was caused by fuel and not the smartphone, although there were definitely multiple smartphones placed inside the pile to burn.”

The cause of the incident is yet to be confirmed.

A Jewish volunteer emergency medical service ‘Hatzola’ said it provided a “mega response team” at the event in Stamford Hill, alongside the London Ambulance Service who also arrived on the scene to treat the burn victims.

A video of the incident posted by Hatzola shows hundreds of Orthodox Jews gathered around a bonfire singing just before the bonfire is lit, followed by a large explosion. “Shrieks and panic” were heard after the blast, The Yeshiva World reported.

London Fire Brigade said it had responded to several other bonfires throughout the night, according to the BBC.

The celebration of Lag B’Omer marks the seven-week period between Passover and Shavuot.

It is also believed to be the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, an essential figure in the history of Judaism, praised for his contribution to the formation of the mystical Kabbalah stream of the religion, and his religious teachings.

The custom is light huge bonfires of combustible material, including wood and plastic, supposed to represent the light Rabbi Bar Yochai introduced to the world.

Given the tradition of bonfire burning Lag B’Omer brings with it a safety hazard, especially in Israel where the hot dry climate can magnify the risk. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening wrote on Twitter: “Don’t light bonfires. There will be other opportunities.”


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