Thursday, September 24, 2015

At least 453 dead, 719 hurt in hajj stampede

A huge stampede killed at least 453 people and injured hundreds more at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in the pilgrimage’s worst tragedy in a quarter century. The stampede, the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse in Mecca, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said. The service said that it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries, and that at least 719 people had also been hurt. Nearly two million people from across the globe were in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world. Iran said at least 43 of its citizens were dead and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident. The stampede began at around 9:00 am (0600 GMT), shortly after the civil defence service said on Twitter it was dealing with a “crowding” incident in Mina, about five kilometres (three miles) from Mecca. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had converged on Mina on Thursday to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan, for the last major ritual of the hajj which officially ends on Sunday. A hospital official told AFP the incident happened outside the Jamarat Bridge structure, where the stoning takes place. A group of pilgrims leaving the area collided with another group that was either moving in the opposite direction or camped outside, the official said. Bodies were laid out on the ground, covered in white sheets and surrounded by personal belongings including shoes and umbrellas used by pilgrims to shield themselves from the sun

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