Makkah: At least 717 people were killed and 863 others injured on Thursday, in a stampede during the Haj at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, one of the worst incidents in nearly a decade to hit the annual pilgrimage.
The stampede occurred on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. Eyewitnesses said the stampede happened at the entrance of the Jamarat bridge near Street 204, not inside of the area where the stoning pillars are. Two teams of medical screening have been set up at the site of the incident.
People praying at Haj. Pic/ AFP
Over two million pilgrims, including more than 1.5 lakh Indians, are performing the Haj this year. The Saudi civil defence authority said rescue operations were underway after the stampede in Mina, where pilgrims were performing the symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at the three pillars.
Two teams of medical screening have been set up at the site of the incident.
Rescue operations. Pic/AFP
"In my camp there were about 400 pilgrims. All of them are safe. But I am trying to make some calls and ascertain from other people," said Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman Minorities Panel, Andhra Pradesh.
The civil defence authority said its teams on the ground are leading pilgrims to safer routes away from the stampede site through alternate routes.
Also Read: One woman dead, two injured in Haj stampede
It said 4,000 people were taking part in rescue efforts, along with 220 ambulances. TV footage from the incident site showed the ground strewn with injured people. Women and old men were screaming. At least 730 pilgrims have been injured in today's stampede.
Mina has in the past been the site of major stampedes that have killed hundreds of people. At least 51 Indians were among 364 pilgrims killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina in 2006.
The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable. At least 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina in 2006.
The Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has seen several disasters that have claimed 2,788 lives in the past 25 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now in the US, condoled the loss of lives. "Distressing news from Mecca. Pained at loss of lives due to the stampede. Condolences to families of the deceased and prayers with the injured."
Congress president Sonia Gandhi expressed shock and distress.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: "Prayers with the injured and with the loved ones of the deceased."
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal added: "Terrible tragedy. Prayers for all."
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has tweeted the emergency helpline numbers following the Haj tragedy near Mecca.
The toll free number for pilgrims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is 8002477786.