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Lag Ba’Omer explosion at Stamford Hill bonfire leads to council row

Hackney council representative claims they had no knowledge that a bonfire would be built - despite the bonfire being an annual event.

    A group has been banned from submitting road closure requests by a council after a Lag Ba’Omer bonfire explosion in which 30 people were injured.

    Hackney Council said it was conducting an investigation into the events surrounding the incident in Stamford Hill, North London, last week.

    The council said the JCC (Jewish Community Council) had applied for permission to close the street but had said nothing about the plan to build a bonfire in the road.

    Kim Wright, the authority’s group director of neighbourhoods and housing, said: “It appears the organisers have misled the council in failing to disclose the true nature of the event.

    “Needless to say we would never have given permission for a bonfire to be lit in the street.”

    The Lag Ba’Omer bonfire lighting is an annual event in Stamford Hill.

    Ms Wright added: “The organisers displayed a shocking disregard for the safety of local residents. It is sheer luck that no one was seriously injured, or worse. We are investigating the incident and taking legal advice."

    It is understood ten people were injured by the initial blast, while a further 20 were hurt as crowds fled from the explosion.

    Although a number of people were taken to hospital, the JC understands they were all released on the same night and have made good recoveries since.

    The JCC said Ms Wright’s allegations were “very disturbing”.

    The organisation said: “Kim Write [sic] has once again publicly issued false accusations and misleading information following the Lag Ba’Omer incident.”

    Reports suggest the explosion may have been caused by the fuel which had been thrown on the bonfire prior to lighting, or by a number of smartphones which had been placed on the bonfire.

    The religious authorities of the strictly Orthodox Jewish community in the area are against the use of smartphones or any devices with internet capability.

    The bonfire was lit at a junction outside Beis Hamedrash Birchas Zvi, a synagogue of the Biala Chassidic sect.

    In a statement, Biala representatives said the community was “very distressed by the events which unfolded.

    “This annual tradition should have been celebrated in an uneventful and pleasant manner. The organisers put in great efforts to ensure the safety of the participants from the outset.

    “Unfortunately, as the fire was about to be lit, it appears an unauthorised flammable liquid was added and this caused an unprecedented reaction. This will of course be investigated.”

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