Breaking News: Death toll rises to 717, with 809 hurt in Hajj stampede
At least 717 people were killed and 809 were injured in a stampede Thursday at the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities said.
The crush happened in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers from the holy city of Makkah. Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls.
It also houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.
The Saudi civil defense directorate earlier said at least 450 other pilgrims were injured in the stampede on Street 204 in Mina.
It was not immediately clear if some of those previously listed as injured were included in rising death tolls.
The directorate said that civil defence teams had rushed in to deal with the disaster, caused by large numbers of people pushing at Mina.
In Abu Dhabi, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was reassured of the safety of the official UAE Haj mission in a telephone conversation following this morning’s stampede in Mina.
More than 200 ambulances and 4,000 emergency relief personnel had been deployed to deal with the stampede, it said. The street impacted by the stampede has been sealed off to prevent further crowd from gathering while the pilgrimage was continuing, it said.
Amateur video shared on social media showed scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Haj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street.
Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area.
Photos released by the directorate on its official Twitter account showed rescue workers helping the wounded onto stretchers and loading them onto ambulances near some of the tents.
Some 2 million people are taking part in this year’s Haj, which began Tuesday.
Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the Haj and the safety of pilgrims. In the past the pilgrimage was for years marred by stampedes and fires, but it had been largely incident-free for nearly a decade following safety improvements.
The stampede was the deadliest disaster at the Haj since 2006, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in the same area. Another stampede at Mina in 2004 left 244 pilgrims dead and hundreds injured.
Preparations for this year’s Haj were marred when on September 11 a construction crane collapsed at Makkah’s Grand Mosque, killing 109 people.
Major Haj-related incidents
Every year, millions of Muslims converge on the Saudi holy cities of Makkah and Madina for the annual Haj, with the massive ceremonies representing a massive security and logistical challenge for the kingdom’s authorities. Here’s a look at some past incidents:
2006: More than 360 pilgrims are killed in a stampede at the desert plain of Mina, near Makkah, where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. The day before the Haj began, an eight-story building being used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque in Makkah collapsed, killing at least 73 people.
2004: A crush of pilgrims at Mina kills 244 pilgrims and injures hundreds on the final day of the Haj ceremonies.
2001: A stampede at Mina during the final day of the pilgrimage ceremonies kills 35 Haj pilgrims.
1998: About 180 pilgrims are trampled to death in panic after several of them fell off an overpass during the final stoning ritual at Mina.
1997: At least 340 pilgrims are killed in a fire at the tent city of Mina as the blaze was aided by high winds. More than 1,500 were injured.
1994: Some 270 pilgrims are killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual at Mina.
1990: The worst Haj-related tragedy claims the lives of 1,426 pilgrims in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Makkah.