More than 700 dead and over 850 injured is the sickening death toll following a stampede near Mecca during the Hajj religious festival.
Pilgrims were on their way to the “stoning of the devil” ritual at the pillars of Jamarat when two large groups met at a crossroads in the tented town in Mina valley.
The Hajj is the world’s largest annual gathering of people and there have been regular accidents in Mecca, despite the Saudi authorities spending billions to improve infrastructure.
“ I express my condolences to me, to you and to all pilgrims for the stampede that happened today in Mina. I also express my condolences to the relatives of the victims. We asked the concerned authorities to investigate into the causes of the dramatic incident and come out with the results of the investigations as soon as possible,” said King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
The Saudi Health Minister said pilgrims failing to follow instructions
had been the main cause of the tragedy, the worst in Mecca for a quarter-century.
Security at the Hajj is a politically sensitive issue for Saudi Arabia, the guardians of the Islamic world’s most sacred sites.
Previous tragedies at Mecca:
- January 2006: 346 pilgrims killed and 289 injured in the “stoning of the devil” at Mina, during the last day of Hajj.
- February 2004: 251 people killed and 244 injured during a ritual at Mina.
- April 1998: around 180 pilgrims trampled to death, panic broke out after many fell from an overpass.
- April 1997: 343 pilgrims killed and 1,500 injured in a fire in an overcrowded tent at Mina.
- July 1990: 1,426 people killed, mainly Pakistani and Indonesian pilgrims, in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel connecting Mecca, Mina and Arafat.
- July 1987: 402 pilgrims killed and thousands injured in a clash between Iranian demonstrators and Saudi security forces.
- December 1975: 200 pilgrims killed in a fire in a tent colony.