At least 717 Muslims killed in hajj stampede on pilgrimage to Mecca

The death toll from a stampede on Thursday during the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has risen to 717 people of various nationalities, the Saudi civil defense said.

It said that the crush, which was caused by large numbers of people gathering at Mina outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca where some two million are performing haj, had also left 805 people injured.

The pilgrimage, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of deadly disasters in the past, including stampedes, tent fires and riots.

The last major incident in hajj took place in 2006, when at least 346 pilgrims were killed as they attempted to perform the “stoning of the devil” at Jamarat.

muslims_stoneing _the_devil

Here, the Muslims are “stoning the devil”.

However, massive infrastructure upgrades and extensive spending on crowd control technology over the past two decades had made such events far less common.

Street 204 is one of the two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone the “devil” by hurling pebbles at three large pillars.

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 to prevent a further crowds developing.

Photographs published on the civil defense Twitter feed showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance.

It said more than 220 ambulances and 4,000 rescue workers had been sent to the stampede’s location to help the wounded. Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya television channel showed a convoy of ambulances driving through the Mina camp.

“Work is underway to separate large groups of people and direct pilgrims to alternative routes,” the Saudi Civil Defense said on its Twitter account.

Thursday is also Eid al-Adha, when Muslims slaughter a sheep. It has traditionally been the most dangerous day of haj because vast numbers of pilgrims attempt to perform rituals at the same time in a single location.

Two weeks ago 110 people died in Mecca’s Grand Mosque when a crane working on an expansion project collapsed during a storm and toppled off the roof into the main courtyard, crushing pilgrims underneath.

http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Saudi-Arabia-At-least-310-die-in-deadliest-haj-stampede-since-2006-418998

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