At least 30 injured in Lag b’Omer bonfire explosion in London


(JTA) — Up to 30 people were injured when a Lag b’Omer bonfire exploded in London.

A fireball erupted when the bonfire was lit Wednesday night in the Stamford Hill neighborhood. The cause was believed to be fuel placed on the wood to make it catch fire easier. Initially it was thought that smartphones placed on the bonfire caused the blast.

People at the bonfire “shrieked and panicked,” and others “trampled on one another,” according to the Yeshiva World News website, which published a video and photos of the incident.

Ten people were taken to the hospital with burns on their faces.

The rabbi of the community hosting the bonfire had spoken prior to lighting about the dangers of smartphones and said he would be burning one, similar to a speech he had given the previous year, according to Yeshiva World News, which cited eyewitnesses to the bonfire. Others reportedly also put their phones on the bonfire pile.

Lag b’Omer marks the 33rd day of the counting of the days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot and the end of a minor mourning period recognizing the deaths of thousands of students of the second-century sage Rabbi Akiva.

Lag b’Omer also commemorates the death of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a kabbalist and mystic who was a disciple of Akiva. The bonfires, lit at sundown, are meant to symbolize the light of his teachings.

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