CAIRO—A stampede on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia left at least 717 people dead and more than 800 injured, in the deadliest tragedy to strike the annual Hajj pilgrimage in a quarter-century.
Saudi officials say the incident occurred Thursday in Mina where pilgrims throw rocks at pillars representing the devil in the final hajj ritual before beginning the Eid al-Adha festival.
Amateur video showed a crowd of hundreds of pilgrims being bowled over and crushed in a stampede on a narrow road alongside rows of tents housing visitors to the annual hajj.
The stampede is the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse that killed 109 people in Mecca.
Health Minister Khaled Falah told journalists the stampede occurred when pilgrims tried to go against the crowd along a narrow road, ignoring time restrictions for movement in each direction. He vowed that a quick investigation would take place to assess what happened.
Saudi TV reported that the Governor of Mecca, Prince Khaled al Faisal, had gone to the site of the stampede to oversee rescue operations. The prince told the TV that many African pilgrims were caught in the crush.
Multiple deadly stampedes have taken place at the hajj during the past 25 years as huge numbers of people gathered for the five-day event required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their lifetime. This year, two million people are participating.
The worst disaster happened in 1990 when a stampede in a Mina tunnel killed more than 1,400 people. Stampedes in 1994, 2004 and 2006 each killed more than 200 pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia’s civil defense directorate gave the casualty figures from Thursday’s stampede on its Twitter account and posted pictures showing rescue workers attending to people on stretchers, including one who appears to be trying to resuscitate a man.
Source : VOA