Fatal stampede near Mecca

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram More than 1.5 billion Muslims marked Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, with temperatures in Mina hitting 46 degrees Celsius.Thousands of pilgrims had converged on the town’s entrance to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan.The fatal stampede began at around 9am (6pm AEST), shortly after “a large number of pilgrims were in motion at the same time” at an intersection of two streets 5 kilometres from Mecca.The tragedy occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, which was erected in the last decade at a cost of more than $1 billion and intended to improve safety. Jamarat Bridge is almost 1 kilometre long and allows up to 300,000 pilgrims per hour to perform the annual ritual.“People were already dehydrated and fainting” as said a Sudanese man, who declined to be named.“This year’s hajj was the most poorly organised of four he had attended.“People were tripping all over each other”, he said, adding that a Saudi companion had warned him that “something was going to happen”.Interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki said “The great heat and fatigue of the pilgrims contributed to the large number of victims.” Official figures released on the date confirm 1,952,817 pilgrims had carried out this year’s hajj, including almost 1.4 million foreigners.The stampede killed at least 717 people injuring hundreds more. Officials in Turkey said at least 18 of its citizens were reported missing. Iran announced that 90 of its nationals were among the dead, and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors.The civil defence said this morning it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries. At least 863 people were hurt, according to the agency. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade today said no Australians were believed to be among the casualties.The disaster came as the world’s Pope Francis used his first public remarks since arriving in New York to express solidarity with Muslims after a devastating stampede in Saudi Arabia.“I want to express the closeness of the church in the face of the tragedy people suffered in Mecca,” said the pontiff at the start of his homily during prayers at St Patrick’s Cathedral. “In this moment of prayer, I unite and join in prayer with our almighty God and merciful father,” he added.Condolences came from capitals around the region and the globe, including from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “We join you in mourning the tragic loss of these faithful pilgrims,” said US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed at the hajj pilgrimage.” Source: AFP, The Australianlast_img

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