MINA Hundreds of people were killed and nearly thousand injured when a stampede broke out during one of the final Hajj rituals in Mina, a tent city a couple of miles from Makkah. Official estimates put the death toll at 817.
The stampede broke out during the Rami Jamarat or “stoning the devil” ritual and it’s not the first time this has happened. Hundreds have been killed during the same ritual in previous years and in 2006 alone, 363 died during the ceremony.
Thursday’s disaster was the worst to befall the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were crushed to death in a tunnel near Makkah.
The Saudi civil defence directorate Tweeted saying that 863 people were injured in the incident. Saudi Arabia’s health minister blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the deadly stampede Thursday during the Haj, saying the tragedy would not have occurred if they had followed instructions.
Health Minister Khaled al-Falih was quoted by El-Ekhbariya television as saying many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables established by authorities, which was the principal reason for this type of accident.
If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.
Rescue operations are under way and an emergency has been declared in all nearby hospitals. At least 4,000 emergency personnel, 220 ambulances and six helicopters are taking part in the rescue operations, the service said.
Photos released by the directorate on its official Twitter account showed rescue workers in orange and yellow vests helping the wounded onto stretchers and loading them onto ambulances near some of the white tents.
Teams on the ground are leading pilgrims away from the stampede, to safety, by means of alternate routes, the civil defence service said.
The incident occurred across the street number 204 at its intersection with the street number 223 in Mina at nine am (local time), the Radio Pakistan Website quoted a spokesman of Saudi Directorate of Civil Defense.
He further said that pilgrims were flocking to Jamarat site to throw pebbles at grand Jamarat Aqaba when there was a sudden increase in number of pilgrims heading towards Jamarat facility.
The spokesman said that security men and Saudi Red Crescent Authority’s personnel rushed to the site to control the situation. They regulated the pilgrims’ traffic towards the incident site and took immediate procedures to rescue and save the pilgrims.
Video posted on Twitter showed bodies, clad in Ihram, lying on the ground by the side of the road, surrounded by debris, as pilgrims and rescue workers attempted to revive them.
Reuters reporters in another part of Mina said they could hear police and ambulance sirens, but that roads leading to the site of the disaster had been blocked.
Efforts to improve safety at Jamarat have included enlarging the three pillars and constructing a three-decker bridge around them to increase the area and number of entry and exit points for pilgrims to perform the ritual.
Mina is a large valley about five kilometres from the holy city of Makkah. The valley houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage. Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. The temperature in the valley is approximately 45 degree Celsius.
The stampede took place near Maktib Number 93 where mostly Algerian pilgrims are staying, according to a report.
Safety during haj is a politically sensitive issue for the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Makkah and Madina.
The Haj pilgrimage this year was marred by a crane collapse in Makkah earlier this month that killed 111 people and injured nearly 400 at Islam’s holiest site.
The Haj is one of the world’s largest annual gatherings of the faithful. Other being Arbaeen pilgrimage in Kerbala Iraq where nearly 10 million people converged on the tomb of Imam Hussain in 2014. Kumb Mela in India also attracts millions twice a year.
Saudi minister blames pilgrims for tragedy
Saudi Arabia’s health minister blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the deadly stampede Thursday during the hajj, saying the tragedy would not have occurred if they “had followed instructions”.
Health Minister Khaled al-Falih was quoted by El-Ekhbariya television as saying “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities, which was the “principal reason for this type of accident.”
“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”
Iran accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors after at least 15 of its citizens died Thursday in a stampede that killed several hundred people during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The head of Irans Hajj organisation, Syed Ohadi, said that for unknown reasons two paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.
This caused this tragic incident, he said on Iranian state television, giving the death toll, indicating that fatalities and casualties could rise.
Ohadi said the path closures had left only three routes to the area where the stoning ceremony was held.
Todays incident shows mismanagement and lack of serious attention to the safety of pilgrims. There is no other explanation. The Saudi officials should be held accountable.
Irans deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Saudi Arabias envoy would be summoned to the foreign ministry in Tehran over the incident, in which more than 450 people were killed.
We can in no way be indifferent to this irresponsible behaviour of Saudi Arabia. This will be dealt with through diplomatic channels, he said on state television.
Timeline of tragedies during hajj
The hajj and events surrounding it have been marred by accidents and tragedies. Heres a look at some deadly hajj-related incidents:
- 24 September: More than 7oo are killed and hundreds injured in a stampede in Mina.
- 11 September: In the lead-up to hajj, at least 107 pilgrims are killed and nearly 400 wounded when a crane collapses, crashing on to the Grand Mosque, Islams holiest site.
- 12 January: More than 360 pilgrims are killed in a stampede in Mina, where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil.
- The day before the hajj begins, an eight-storey building being used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque in Mecca collapsed, killing at least 73 people.
- 6 January: 76 people die when a hotel collapses in the city centre.
- 22 January: Three pilgrims are crushed to death in a stampede at the stoning ceremony in Mina.
- 1 February: A crush of pilgrims at Mina kills about 250 pilgrims and injures hundreds on the final day of the hajj ceremonies.
- 11 February: 14 devotees die on the first day of the stoning ritual.
- 5 March: A stampede at Mina during the final day of the pilgrimage ceremonies kills 35 hajj pilgrims.
- 9 April: More than 118 people are killed and 180 injured in a stampede at Mina.
- 15 April: 343 pilgrims are killed in a fire at the tent city of Mina as the blaze is aided by high winds. More than 1,500 are injured.
- 24 May: 270 pilgrims are killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual at Mina, an incident authorities attribute to record numbers of pilgrims at the site.
- 2 July: A huge stampede occurs in a tunnel at Mina after a failure in its ventilation system kills 1,426 pilgrims, mainly from Asia.
- 10 July: A twin attack on the outside of the Grand Mosque kills one and wounds 16.
- 31 July: Saudi forces suppress an anti-Israeli protest held by pilgrims. More than 400 people, including 275 Iranians are killed, according to an official toll.
- 20 November: 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.
- December: A huge fire started by a gas canister exploding in a pilgrim camp close to Mecca kills 200 people.
JK Govt. Mum On Kashmiri Pilgrims
By nightfall Thursday State authorities, including Haj and Auqaf Ministry, had no clue about the Kashmiri pilgrims currently on Hajj.
This despite Chief Minister Mufti M Sayeed’s direction to keep the families informed about the welfare of Hajj pilgrims from the state. A total of 6366 Kashmiri pilgrims are performing Hajj this year under Hajj Committee of India quota while 400 pilgrims are in the holy land with private operators.
More than 800 pilgrims were killed in a stampede on Street 204 in Mina.
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