The deadly stampede last month in Mina, outside Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca killed at least 1,453 people during the hajj, a new tally by the Associated Press showed on Friday, making it the deadliest event to ever strike the annual pilgrimage.
The previous deadliest-ever incident happened in 1990, when a stampede killed 1,426 people.
AP’s count which was based on casualty figures from affected countries is 684 higher than Saudi Arabia’s official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the September 24 disaster.
Saudi officials, who could not be immediately reached for comment yesterday had previously said their tally remained accurate, though an investigation into the causes of the tragedy is ongoing.
Saudi Authorities have not updated their casualty toll since September 26, two days after the disaster.
The AP figure comes from statements and officials’ comments from 19 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the five-day annual pilgrimage.
Authorities have said the September 24 crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.
Iran said it had 465 pilgrims killed, while Egypt lost 148 and Indonesia 120.
Others include India with 101, Nigeria with 99, Pakistan with 93, Mali with 70, Bangladesh with 63, Senegal with 54, Benin with 51, Cameroon with 42, Ethiopia with 31, Sudan with 30, Morocco with 27, Algeria with 25, Ghana with 12, Chad with 11, Kenya with eight and Turkey with three. Hundreds remain missing, according to these countries.
Shiite power Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia’s Mideast rival has blamed the disaster on the kingdom’s “mismanagement” and accused Riyadh of a cover-up, saying the real death toll exceeds 4,700, without providing evidence to support the claim.
Iran has called for an independent body to take over planning and administering the five-day hajj pilgrimage, required of all able Muslims once in their lifetimes.
But the ruling Al Saud family likely would never give up its role in administering the holy sites, which along with Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth gives it major influence in the Muslim world.
King Salman himself is known as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Only on Thursday, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) revised upward Nigeria’s death toll to 99. It said 42 Nigerian pilgrims were injured and 214 others missing after the stampede at Mina.
The Commissioner Planning, Research Statistic Information and Library Service (PRSILS) of the commission, Dr. Saleh Okenwa told reporters in Makkah on Thursday that the total number of Nigerians affected in the incident was 355.
He however insisted that those missing cannot be declared dead, since identification of those affected were still being collated by the Saudi Arabian health authorities in conjunction with Nigerian and other health officials.
When asked about the fate of the missing, the commissioner said: “In the early days people expressed hope but the hope is weaning. We cannot declare those missing as dead since there is no evidence to state that they have been confirmed dead.”
Following deaths from the stoning of devil, Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi II stated that the ritual was not compulsory.
The Emir who quoted several verses of the Qur’an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) added: “refusal to even perform the stoning of devil rituals does not in any way invalidate one’s Hajj.
“During the era of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he permitted pilgrims who came on camels to stay in Makkah after Arafat, instead of staying in Mina and sleeping at Muzdalifa.
“So, if the Prophet could give such grace to some people, just to protect their animals, why didn’t our scholars educate our people properly to avoid this untoward hardship and deaths.
“Therefore, it will be part of my recommendations to the federal government that, if we cannot get accommodation close to Jamrat where the Arabs reside in Mina, then this year may be the last time we will sleep in Mina and Muzdalifa because we want to stone the devil.
“Besides that, if one deliberately refuses to even perform the stoning of the devil rituals, all he needs to do is to slaughter a ram. So, if this is the situation, why do we go and suffer and die instead of sacrificing a ram?
“As is it presently, sleeping in Mina and Muzdalifa is not backed by any Hadith or verse of the Qur’an. So, why do we continue to do it?” -Thisday