Two Indians were among 717 people killed in a stampede when Haj pilgrims jostled their way to perform symbolic stoning of the devil here, marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage in Mecca. Over 850 were injured at Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, when two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads on their way to performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual at Jamarat, Saudi civil defence said.
A 60-year old woman from Hyderabad, identified as Jaanbibi Majeed, who was killed in the stampede had gone to Mecca on September 2. While another deceased, from Kerala, had gone for the Haj through a privately-sponsored group.
The head of Iran’s hajj organization blamed Saudi “mismanagement” for a crush of pilgrims outside Mecca that killed hundreds of people, including 41 Iranian pilgrims. Saeed Ohadi told state TV by phone from Saudi Arabia that the incident might have been caused by the closure of a road. State TV says another 60 Iranian pilgrims were wounded in the incident.
A sudden surge in the number of pilgrims heading to Jamarat for symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls resulted in the stampede at 9 AM local time (1130 IST), the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
The Saudi civil defence authority said rescue operations were underway in Mina.
The incident is reported to have occurred between Mount Arafat and the Grand Mosque when the pilgrims were performing the symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at the three pillars.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said high temperatures and the fatigue of the pilgrims might also have been factors in Thursday’s disaster, the deadliest event to afflict the hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades.
He says there is no indication that authorities are to blame for the event, saying “unfortunately, these incidents happen in a moment.”
Al-Turki says King Salman has ordered the creation of committee to investigate the incident.
Some 2 million people take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to undertake at least once in their lives.
Two survivors interviewed by The Associated Press say the crush of Muslim pilgrims began when two waves of pilgrims going in opposite directions collided.
Egyptian pilgrim Abdullah Lotfy, 44, said “I saw someone trip over someone in a wheelchair and several people tripping over him. People were climbing over one another just to breathe.”
Lotfy says the collision should never have happened, saying “there was no preparation” on the part of Saudi authorities. Ismail Hamba, 58, from Nigeria, recalled falling down and then being trampled, saying “it was really, really terrible.”
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Two weeks ago, Mecca was ravaged by a crane collapse that resulted in the death of 111 people and injuries to more than 350 others. Saudi authorities announced that the results of investigation into the incident will be referred to the king, Sabq Online reported. No information has been revealed about the reason behind the collapse of the crane, reportedly the largest in the world.
This is the second worst incident in 25 years to hit the annual pilgrimage. In 1990, a stampede inside a tunnel leading to holy sites killed 1,426 pilgrims.
See timeline of previous stampedes at Mecca below:
Also read: Decoding the Mecca crane crash
India’s Ministry of External Affairs had confirmed that 11 Indians were killed in the crane collapse incident.
Watch video: All you need to know about Hajj
The Saudi government has arranged foolproof safety and security measures, deploying nearly 100,000 men in uniform at the holy sites to make the journey of a lifetime for the two million pilgrims safe and secure. Saudi Government officials said a total of 13,74,206 foreign pilgrims have arrived for Hajj this year.
لا تزال عمليات الفرز مستمرة، وارتفع عدد الإصابات إلى 400 إصابة و 150 حالة وفاة. pic.twitter.com/HjZ2QuiYst
— الدفاع المدني (@KSA_998) September 24, 2015
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