Two Indians were among 717 people killed in a stampede when Haj pilgrims jostled their way to perform symbolic stoning of the devil here, marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage in Mecca. Over 850 were injured at Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, when two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads on their way to performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual at Jamarat, Saudi civil defence said.
A 60-year old woman from Hyderabad, identified as Jaanbibi Majeed, who was killed in the stampede had gone to Mecca on September 2. While another deceased, from Kerala, had gone for the Haj through a privately-sponsored group.
The head of Iran’s hajj organization blamed Saudi “mismanagement” for a crush of pilgrims outside Mecca that killed hundreds of people, including 41 Iranian pilgrims. Saeed Ohadi told state TV by phone from Saudi Arabia that the incident might have been caused by the closure of a road. State TV says another 60 Iranian pilgrims were wounded in the incident.
A sudden surge in the number of pilgrims heading to Jamarat for symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls resulted in the stampede at 9 AM local time (1130 IST), the state-run Saudi Press Agency said. The Saudi civil defence authority said rescue operations were underway in Mina.
The incident is reported to have occurred between Mount Arafat and the Grand Mosque when the pilgrims were performing the symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at the three pillars.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said high temperatures and the fatigue of the pilgrims might also have been factors in Thursday’s disaster, the deadliest event to afflict the hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades.
He says there is no indication that authorities are to blame for the event, saying “unfortunately, these incidents happen in a moment.” Al-Turki says King Salman has ordered the creation of committee to investigate the incident. Some 2 million people take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to undertake at least once in their lives.