Thursday, 24 September 2015

At least 220 pilgrims killed in Hajj stampede at Mina


MAKKAH: At least 220 pilgrims died while another 400 were wounded in a stampede during the stoning of Satan in Mina, Saudi Arabia’s al-Ekhbariya television said on Thursday.
The pilgrims were killed in a crush at Mina, outside the holy city of Makkah, where some two million people are performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The crush, in which at least 400 others were injured, took place on Street 204 of the camp city at Mina, a few kilometres east of Makkah, where pilgrims stay for several days during the climax of the Hajj.
Thursday is also Eidul Azha, 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.
Street 204 is one of the two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone the devil by hurling pebbles at three large pillars.
Photographs published on the civil defence Twitter feed showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance.
“Work is underway to separate large groups of people and direct pilgrims to alternative routes,” the Saudi Civil Defence said on its Twitter account.
The pilgrimage, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of deadly stampedes in the past, as well as other disasters including tent fires and riots.
However, massive infrastructure upgrades and extensive spending on crowd control technology over the past two decades had made such events far less common.
Meanwhile, Foreign Office said they were collecting information about the Pakistani pilgrims in Saudi Arabia to check whether any of them were among the victims, Express News reported.
On Monday, a fire forced some 1,500 people from their hotel in Makkah as pilgrims gathered for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the Saudi civil defence department had said. Four Yemeni pilgrims had sustained minor injuries following the pre-dawn fire in a 15-storey hotel, state news agency SPA quoted the department as saying.
The Hajj has been almost incident-free for the past decade. However, 108 people, including foreign pilgrims, died earlier this month when a construction crane fell on the Grand Mosque.
Earlier on September 12, a massive construction crane crashed into Makkah’s Grand Mosque in stormy weather, killing at least 108 people and injuring scores others, Saudi authorities said, less than a fortnight before the Hajj pilgrimage starts.
The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a “crane fell at the Grand Mosque.” That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah was “witnessing medium to heavy rains,” with pictures circulating on social media showing lightning.
This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly.

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