Saudi king orders Hajj safety evaluation

Hajj stampede: Saudi king orders safety assessment

  • 24 September 2015
  • From the section Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered a safety evaluation for the Hajj pilgrimage right after at least 717 folks died in a stampede near the holy city of Mecca.

Another 863 individuals were injured in the incident at Mina, which occurred as two million pilgrims had been taking portion in the Hajj’s final major rite.

It is the deadliest incident to occur in the course of the pilgrimage in 25 years.

The king stated there was a want “to enhance the level of organisation and management of movement” of pilgrims.

In images: Aftermath of the stampede

Accounts from BBC staff in Mina

Was stampede preventable?

In the latest reaction:

  • A commission to investigate the crush has been formed by the Saudi government
  • The Saudi health minister, Khaled al-Falih, mentioned the crush occurred because a lot of pilgrims moved “without respecting the timetables” established by authorities
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, which lost at least 95 of its citizens in the crush, stated the Saudi government “must accept the huge duty for this catastrophe”
  • He added that “mismanagement and improper actions” were to blame

It is the second disaster to strike Mecca in two weeks, soon after a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, killing 109 folks.

As component of the Hajj, pilgrims travel to Mina, a huge valley about 5km (3 miles) from Mecca, to throw seven stones at pillars known as Jamarat, which represent the devil.

The pillars stand exactly where Satan is believed to have tempted the Prophet Abraham.

Why do millions gather in Mecca each and every year?

The accident occurred at 09:00 nearby time (06:00 GMT) as pilgrims had been walking towards the 5-storey structure which surrounds the pillars, identified as the Jamarat Bridge.

Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry, mentioned the crush occurred when two massive groups of pilgrims converged from different directions on to 1 street.

Photographs showed the bodies of dozens of pilgrims on the ground, some piled higher. They had been all dressed in the basic white garments worn throughout the Hajj.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Pictures
Image caption “Dead bodies stretch as far as my eyes can see,” one BBC employee in Mina said
Image copyright SPA
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of men and women continued to the Jamarat pillars regardless of the tragedy earlier
Image copyright AP
Image caption Pilgrims converge on Mina to cast stones at three pillars representing the devil

“I saw someone trip more than a person in a wheelchair and many folks tripping over him,” Abdullah Lotfy, from Egypt, told the Linked Press. “Men and women had been climbing more than one particular yet another just to breathe.”

“Dead bodies stretch as far as my eyes can see,” said Bashir Sa’ad Abdullahi, the BBC’s Abuja editor, who is in Mina.

The civil defence directorate said the victims were of “distinct nationalities”, without delivering particulars.

The BBC understands at least 3 Indonesians, and some pilgrims from Niger, are amongst the dead.

The UK Foreign Office said it was urgently looking for much more details about whether or not British nationals have been involved.

Hajj: Prior tragedies

2006: 364 pilgrims die in a crush at foot of Jamarat Bridge in Mina

1997: 340 pilgrims are killed when fire fuelled by higher winds sweeps through Mina’s tent city

1994: 270 pilgrims die in a stampede during the stoning ritual

1990: 1,426 pilgrims, mainly Asian, die in a stampede in an overcrowded tunnel leading to holy web sites

1987: 402 people die when security forces break up an anti-US demonstration by Iranian pilgrims

Timeline: Deadliest stampedes

The Saudi authorities have spent billions of dollars on improving transport and other infrastructure to attempt to avoid such incidents.

The Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It is the journey that every able-bodied adult Muslim need to undertake at least as soon as in their lives if they can afford it.

The quantity of individuals attending Hajj rose from 57,000 in 1921 to a high of three.2m 3 years ago, according to the Saudi Central Department of Statistics and Details.

That figure dropped to just over two million last year.

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