Crushed: More than 700 killed in Haj pilgrimage stampede

At least 717 people, including four Indians, were trampled to death and over 860 hurt in a stampede of Haj pilgrims at Mina in Saudi Arabia, during the ritual of stoning the devil

Riyadh: At least 717 people were killed and over 860 others injured in a stampede yesterday when Haj pilgrims jostled their way to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina, Saudi Arabia, marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage.

The incident took place at Mina, about five km from Mecca.

Also read: Also read: Here are some of the deadliest stampedes in world history

A pilgrim is treated by a medic after the stampede. Pic/pti
A pilgrim is treated by a medic after the stampede. Pic/PTI

A sudden surge in the number of pilgrims — heading to Jamarat to throw pebbles against three stone walls to symbolise stoning of the devil — resulted in the stampede at 9 am local time (11.30 am Indian Standard Time).

The ritual took place at a five-storey structure known as the Jamarat Bridge, which cost more than $1 billion to build and was used during earlier pilgrimages as well. Almost 1 km long, it accommodates 300,000 pilgrims an hour.

The stampede occurred at the intersection of two streets leading to Jamarat.

Also read: Haj stampede - How Malegaon man escaped death by a few minutes

Four Indians dead
An elderly woman from Hyderabad, identified as Bibi Jaan, was among the Haj pilgrims who died during the unfortunate accident, an official of the Telangana State Haj Committee said in Hyderabad.

Another man from Thrissur, Kerala also lost his life yesterday, but not in the stampede. The man, identified as Mohammed, died in a hospital where he was admitted after complaining of uneasiness. He was sitting in the tent and was having food when he felt uneasy. He was rushed to the hospital, but his life could not be saved.

Also read: Over 717 killed, 863 hurt in stampede during haj in Saudi Arabia

A woman pilgrim from Kannur, identified as Jameela, was injured in the stampede, but she is reported to be recovering. Another man from Lakshadweep, was among the pilgrims injured in the disaster that took place on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice.

More than 4,000 rescue workers and over 200 emergency vehicles worked feverishly to help the wounded and transport the dead. Pic/pti
More than 4,000 rescue workers and over 200 emergency vehicles worked feverishly to help the wounded and transport the dead. Pic/PTI

Rescue efforts
Saudi security forces and rescuers poured into the disaster site within minutes after the tragedy. But by then, hundreds were dead on the streets, and the injured were in agony and distress. More than 4,000 rescue workers and over 200 emergency vehicles worked feverishly to help the wounded and transport the dead. The injured cried out in agony as survivors tried to help them.

 

Many of the injured suffered bruises and lacerations. Photographs released by the Saudi Civil Defence Directorate showed some pilgrims seated amid a sea of bodies, many bare-chested and clearly from all parts of the world.

Blame game
It is not clear what caused the stampede on Thursday. The local media reported that the head of the Central Haj Committee, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, had blamed the stampede on “some pilgrims with African nationalities”. But the head of Iran’s Haj organisation, Said Ohadi, told IRNA news agency that two routes to the Jamarat Pillars had been inexplicably closed by the Saudi authorities, resulting in a build-up of pilgrims.

Saudi crown prince orders probe
Mina: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince yesterday ordered an investigation into the stampede at the Haj pilgrimage that left more than 700 dead. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the Saudi Hajj Committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place.

The findings of the investigation will be submitted to King Salman, “who will take appropriate measures” in response. Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister Khaled al-Faleh promised that there would be a rapid and transparent investigation of the stampede, which he blamed on undisciplined pilgrims who did not follow instructions.

The stoning ritual

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims stone the walls in a ritual called ‘Jamarat’, in Mina near Mecca in December 2007. The stoning ritual is an emulation of Abraham’s stoning of the devil at the three spots where it is said Satan tried to dissuade the biblical patriarch from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Pic/AFP

204 & 223
The intersecting streets where the stampede took place after pilgrims completed the stoning ritual

2 million
The number of pilgrims from across the globe who are taking part in Haj this year

1.6 lakh

The number of fire-proof tents in Mina to accommodate the pilgrims

4,000

The number of people who are taking part in the rescue efforts

1 lakh
 
The number of men in uniform that had been deployed by the Saudi government at the holy sites

1,426

The number of people killed in Mecca, during a stampede in a tunnel in 1990

220

The number of ambulances deployed by the Saudi government at the stampede site for the victims

Mecca no stranger to tragedies
Here is a timeline of some of the significant accidents that took place during the annual Islamic holy event that draws around two million Muslim faithful from around the world to Mecca in Saudi Arabia

11 Sept 2015
109 people are killed and hundreds injured, including many foreigners, when a crane collapses on Mecca’s Grand Mosque after strong winds and heavy rain

Jan 2006
The day before the Haj began, an eight-storey building being used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque in Mecca collapsed, killing at least 76 people

Apr 1997
A fire caused by a gas stove rips through a camp housing pilgrims at Mina, killing 343 and injuring around 1,500

May 1995
Three people die and 99 are injured when a fire breaks out at the Mina camp

Saudi emergency personnel spray water to cool down Hajj pilgrims at the site. PICs/AFP
Saudi emergency personnel spray water to cool down Hajj pilgrims at the site. Pics/AFP

Jul 1989
A twin attack on the outside of the Grand Mosque kills one and wounds 16. Sixteen Kuwaiti Shiites are found guilty of the crime and executed weeks later

Jul 1987
Saudi security forces suppress an unauthorised protest held by Iranian pilgrims. More than 400 people, including 275 Iranians are killed, according to the official toll

Nov 1979
Hundreds of gunmen opposed to the Saudi government barricade themselves inside the Grand Mosque, taking dozens of pilgrims hostage. The official toll of the assault and subsequent fighting is 153 people dead and 560 wounded

Dec 1975
A huge fire started by a gas cannister exploding in a pilgrim camp close to Mecca kills 200 people

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