Haj stampede kills over 700

Haj stampede kills over 700

Four Indians among dead

Haj stampede kills over 700
A huge stampede killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the Haj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

The stampede, the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse in Mecca, broke out in Mina during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said.

Bodies could be seen in piles, surrounded by discarded personal belongings and flattened water bottles. In some areas rescue workers laid bodies in long rows on stretchers, limbs protruding from beneath white sheets. The civil defence service said it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries, and that at least 863 people had also been hurt.  Nearly two million people from across the globe were attending the Haj.

Indian pilgrims
Among those killed were four Indians, said Indian Consulate officials in Jeddah. “A man from Kerala who died in the stampede has been identified as Mohammed from Kodungaloor in Thrissur district,” Kerala’s Rural Development and Non Resident Keralite Affairs Minister K C Joseph said in Thiruvananthapuram. A woman from Hyderabad identified as Bibi Jaan was also killed, said S A Shukoor, special officer of Telangana State Haj Committee. Jaan had gone on the pilgrimage with her husband and two relatives on September 2. Two people from Assam and one woman from Kerala were also injured.

This is the second worst tragedy to hit the Haj after 1990 when 1,426 pilgrims were killed in a stampede inside a tunnel leading to holy sites.

Meanwhile, a Saudi minister has blamed the pilgrims themselves for the stampede, saying they had not followed rules. “Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables,”  Health Minister Khaled al-Falih told El-Ekhbariya television.

“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”

The stampede began at around 9 am (0600 GMT), shortly after the civil defence service said on Twitter it was dealing with a “crowding” incident in Mina, about 5 km from Mecca. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had converged in Mina on Thursday to throw pebbles at one of the three walls representing Satan, for the last major ritual of the Haj which officially ends on Sunday.

Interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki said the stampede was caused when “a large number of pilgrims were in motion at the same time” at an intersection of two streets in Mina. “The great heat and fatigue of the pilgrims contributed to the large number of victims,” he said. 

But a Sudanese pilgrim in Mina said this year’s Haj was the most poorly organised of four he had attended. “People were already dehydrated and fainting” before the stampede, said the pilgrim who declined to be named. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the Haj committee, has ordered a probe into the incident.

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