Hajj stampede: 717 killed, 863 injured in Saudi Arabia

HAjjTwo days to the end of this year’s hajj, a huge stampede led to the death of no fewer than 717 people while at least 863 were injured in Saudi Arabia yesterday.
The incident came as the world’s two billion Muslims marked Eid el-Kabir, the Feast of Sacrifice, during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual in Mina, the Saudi civil defence service said.
It was the second major accident this year for hajj pilgrims after a construction crane collapsed on September 11 at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.
There was no official figures from Nigerian officials at Press time as regards the number of casualties from the country.
But Daily Sun gathered that about four Nigerian pilgrims, including a prominent Professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies from one of the states in the North-East and another famous female journalist and popular columnist with an Abuja-based newspaper, also from the north, were among those that lost their lives.
The stampede was said to have occurred at about 10am Saudi Arabia time or 8am Nigerian time.
It was said to have occurred following the decision of Saudi Arabian police to shut the gate leading to the Jamarat to avoid overcrowding.
An eyewitness who said he practically walked on corpses to survive, said: “While we were approaching Jamarat, the gate was closed, but the pilgrims did not know. So the crowd was still surging. By this time, those who were turned back from the gate now faced the crowd that was surging. And because of the hot weather, the situation got out of control. I had to walk on corpses to save my life.”
Assistant News Editor with Daily Sun, Akeeb Alarape, said he only cheated death by the whiskers.
“When those that were being turned back faced us, the hot weather began affecting some of us and I almost passed out until one of my roommates came to my rescue. I recalled I was calling on God for a miracle because I was already feeling the impact before help came my way. I and many others escaped through the roof of the tent.
“By the time I recovered and tried to go and find out what happened, it was dead bodies that I saw. From my tent alone, four persons have been confirmed dead.”
As at the time of filing this report, officials from the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, were still meeting with officials from the states Pilgrims Welfare Boards, to ascertain the actual figure of Nigerians affected.
Yesterday’s disaster was the worst at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were crushed to death in a tunnel near Mecca. It occurred also on Eid el-Kabir.
Agency reports quoted Saudi state television as saying that Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz has pledge d that a committee would carry out an investigation into the disaster. -The Sun

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