MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia — At least 717 people were killed, and 863 injured, in a stampede in Mina, in Saudi Arabia, yesterday during the Islamic commemoration of Jamarat, which is the “stoning of the devil” with pebbles.
This has now brought the death toll in Saudi Arabia to 824 as107 persons including six Nigerians died on September 11 when a huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque — the largest in the world — that was filled with worshippers at the time.
The head of Saudi Arabia’s civil defence said strong winds and heavy rains had caused the collapse.
The Stoning of the Devil is a re-enactment of a story from the Q’uran involving the Prophet Ibrahim, which takes place during the Hajj, a few kilometers away from Mina.
Some reports say total number of casualties remained unclear as more than three million pilgrims observing this year’s hajj, who spent the night in the plain fields of Muzdalifa, began trooping to the Jamarat as early as 3 a.m. local time.
Saudi civil defence authorities confirmed the deaths on Twitter and said two medical centres had been opened to treat the injured. More than 4,000 emergency workers were sent to the scene, and hundreds of people were taken to four hospitals, the New York Times reported.
Vanguard correspondent reports Nigerians among dead
Vanguard correspondent at the scene confirmed that several Nigerian pilgrims also died in the stampede while officials of Nigerian delegation are already taking stock of Nigerians and will soon come out with the number and identities of those Pilgrims involved. At press time, the more 200 rescue officials were busy attending to victims as hospitals close to Jamrah were busy.
Cause of stampede
An eye witness told Vanguard on telephone that “the stampede started from tents erected close to Jamrah. Pilgrims were not supposed to pass through the tents but they did since there were no officials to stop them and the pandemonium led to a massive stampede at the Jamrah exit points.”
He added that Saudi officials who are saddled with the responsibility of controlling the movement of persons were not around the area at the time of the incident.
According to hm, the exit points to the Jamrah are four. There was an ambulance parked close to one of the entries and again, another entry had been taken over by disabled persons, but since there were no security officials to direct movement, people became unruly when trying to find a way out, causing the stampede.
Vanguard photographer, Lamidi Bamidele, who escaped death by the whiskers confirmed that officials were not around the area when the incident occurred. “I was at the centre of the stampede.
Saudi police and traffic officials who used to control movement were not available. In fact it was after the stampede that they arrived. I managed to escape unhurt but not without losing my pair of shoes,” he stated.
It was gathered that some Nigerians were among those killed in the stampede. According to a source, “I saw a couple of bodies being moved away and I know they were Nigerians but I cannot confirm the number now. It was not difficult to know the identity of any pilgrim because each pilgrim always wears a band which indicates where he comes from. Authorities are still collating the number of Nigerians killed and injured in the stampede.”