Death toll at Saudi Haj crush rises to 310: Saudi civil defense

Posted on September 24, 2015

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by Bradley Matthews, editing by Adam MS

DUBAI (Reuters) – At least 310 people were killed and 450 injured in a stampede Thursday during the annual hajj pilgrimage just outside Mecca, Saudi officials said.

The civil defense directorate said teams were leading pilgrims to safety and that rescue operations are continuing, Al Arabiya reported. Officials said around 4,000 rescue workers and 220 ambulances were sent to the scene.

Saudi Arabia’s civil defense directorate said the incident happened in Mina, about three miles from Mecca — Islam’s holiest city — and tweeted images of rescuers helping injured pilgrims lying on the ground. It said the dead are of different nationalities.

Hundreds of thousands were taking part in the symbolic “stoning of the devil”, the last major rite of the pilgrimage, Al Arabiya said. However Al Jazeera reported that the stampede did not happen during the event, which takes place in Mina.

Some 2 million people from around the world are taking part in this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which started Tuesday. Muslims around the world are currently marking Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s two most important holidays.

Earlier this month, at least 111 people were killed and nearly 400 injured when a crane collapsed into a section of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Thursday’s stampede was the deadliest tragedy in the area since 2006, when nearly 350 people were killed in a stampede during the pilgrimage. The day before that hajj began, at least 73 people died when an eight-story building near the Grand Mosque collapsed. Saudi officials introduced safety improvements after the stampede.

All able-bodied Muslims with the financial means are required to undertake the hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, at least once in their lifetime.

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