M A I N   N E W S

345 killed in Haj stampede
Six Indians among dead

Dubai, January 12
Tragedy struck on the last day of Haj when at least 345 Muslim pilgrims, including possibly six Indians, were crushed to death in a stampede after tripping over strewn luggages as tens of thousands of devotees rushed to complete the symbolic stoning ritual in Mina near Mecca today.

Some 345 pilgrims were killed and as many as 289 others were injured in the accident “due to unruly pilgrims and a problem of luggage,” Saudi Health Minister Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Maneh told reporters in Mina. He did not give the nationalities of those killed.

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed said in New Delhi that six Indians — four women and two men — are feared to have been killed in the stampede.

Indian Consul General in Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed said of the 25 injured Indians, 17 have been discharged after first aid.

While seven injured were in hospital in Mina, one was in Mecca, he said.

Sayeed, who is camping in Mina, said teams had been sent to various hospitals to find out if there was any Indian among the dead.

The Saudi Minister said: “Today, just after sunset, there was a big rush among the pilgrims which led a group of them to be killed or wounded.”

“The number of killed has reached 345 by the time of drafting this report,” Hamad said adding, “As for the number of who were transported to hospital it is 289 most of whom have light injuries and have been released from hospital after first-aid treatment.”

The accident occurred when tens of thousands of pilgrims, while rushing to complete the stoning ritual, tripped over pieces of luggage which had fallen from a moving bus at the eastern enterance of the Jamarat bridge. It took place at the foot of the bridge, where pilgrims hurl stones at three pillars representing the spot where the devil appeared to Prophet Ibrahim.

TV channels showed bodies of dozens of pilgrims lying on the ground and covered with white shrouds.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that the mishap occured as pilgrims jostled to perform the stoning ritual between noon and sunset.

The stampede comes a week after 76 pilgrims, including three Indians, died in Mecca in a building collapse.

The stoning ritual has been marred by deadly stampedes in the past. After a stampede in 2004 in which more than 250 persons were killed, Saudi authorities built barriers and deployed tens of thousands of stewards in a bid to improve safety during the ceremony.

In 1990, some 1,426 persons were killed in a stampede in the same place. — PTI


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