From their resting spot on the Zikim beach in southern Israel, the Hazut family saw lightning bolts streak across the sky in the distance on Tuesday afternoon, prompting them to begin packing up their equipment to dodge the impending, “very scary” storm.
But as they grabbed their gear, a fiery bolt violently struck the shore. And the next thing Elazar Hazut, 24, knew, medics were peering over him.
His wife, two younger brothers, and cousin were also being treated on the coast for injuries.
They had been struck by lightning, in an extremely rare incident for Israel.
Thirteen-year-old Asher Hazut sustained life-threatening injuries and remained in critical condition at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center Tuesday evening. Efrat Hazut, 22, was rushed to the same hospital and placed in the intensive care unit with her condition deemed serious. Elazar, 17-year-old Elhanan, and their 13-year-old cousin, were all three in moderate condition.
“My wife, siblings and I went to the beach to play and swim. We ate and played before we saw lightning strike far away,” Elazar Hazut of Beersheba told reporters from his hospital bed.
“It began to get cloudy, so we said ‘okay let’s pack up.’ It was very scary. There was a lot of noise, too. My sister-in-law had already started heading toward the car. The next thing I remember was being woken up by Magen David Adom [paramedics],” he added. “I looked for my kippa and saw that it had been burned.”
Eyewitnesses described fleeing the scene as the lightning struck.
“There was a flash as if someone had thrown a stun grenade,” said Guy Shlapkov, who was also at the beach. “We folded up our tent, I grabbed my bag and began running toward our car.”
“While I was running, I saw a man on the shore waving his hands and calling for an ambulance. I saw four others lying on the ground. It was really chaotic,” he added.
Shlapkov had one of his friends call an ambulance while others tended to the victims before medics arrived at the scene.
He was still gripping the tzitzit religious garment of one of the victims when he spoke to reporters at the scene of the incident.
“I imagine he’ll still need this,” he said blankly.
A medic from the Magen David Adom medical service said earlier that two of the victims were without a pulse and not breathing when they arrived on the scene near the city of Ashkelon.
The incident came amid powerful lightning storms that hit Israel on Monday night and Tuesday, from the Golan Heights in the north to the country’s south.
The early season storm rattled through the country, causing sporadic power outages, a bridge collapse, beaches to shut down and concerts to be canceled across the country, as Israelis marked the week-long Sukkot holiday.
Despite the weather, hundreds of thousands of vacationing Israelis visited nature parks and beaches earlier Tuesday.
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