Hundreds of pilgrims die in hajj stampede

2015-09-24 11:55
Rescuers respond to the hajj stampede. (Directorate of Saudi civil defence agency’s Twitter account. AP)

Rescuers respond to the hajj stampede. (Directorate of Saudi civil defence agency’s Twitter account. AP)

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Mecca - Saudi authorities said on Thursday that at least 220 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The crush happened in Mina, a large valley about 5km from the holy city of Mecca. Mina houses more than 160 000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.

The Saudi civil defence directorate said at least 450 other pilgrims were injured in the stampede.

Photos released by the directorate on its official Twitter account showed rescue workers in orange and yellow vests helping the wounded onto stretchers and loading them onto ambulances near some of the white tents.

About 2 million people are taking part in this year's hajj pilgrimage, which began on Tuesday.

The stampede was the deadliest disaster at the hajj since 2006, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in the same area.

Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls.

Thursday's stampede happened less than two weeks after a giant construction crane came crashing down on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the focal point of the hajj. That accident killed at least 111 people and injured more than 390.

Convoy of ambulances

Meanwhile Reuters reported that massive infrastructure upgrades and extensive spending on crowd control technology over the past two decades had made such stampedes and deaths far less common.

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.

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.

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

Read more on:    saudi arabia  |  hajj

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