Ahmedabad: A family in Ahmedabad city, which was struck by the Haj tragedy, mourned the death of their loved ones and hoped for contact from the remaining missing members.
At least 717 pilgrims from around the world were killed on September 24 in a crush in Mina, which is near the holy city of Mecca, in the worst disaster to strike the annual Haj pilgrimage for 25 years.
At least 863 others were injured. Saudi King Salman said he had ordered a review of Haj plans after the disaster, in which two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca, on their way to performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual at Jamarat.Foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup has confirmed the death of 18 nationals, while 13 others have been admitted to hospitals in Saudi Arabia.
In Ahmedabad, relatives of Johra Nagori and Ruksana Nagori sat grieving the women’s deaths as many came to their house to console them.
Seven members of the Nagori family had undertaken the Haj pilgrimage, of which two were still alive. Johra’s nephew Shamim said they were still waiting for the news of the missing three.
“Yesterday our uncle (Johra’s husband) called us at around noon saying that my aunts (including his own wife) had died in the Haj stampede. There was no help to be found nearby. They found help after five hours. They were rushed to Mina by government help and put on treatment but they were later declared dead,” he said on Friday.
Others said they were trying to find closure in the fact that they died at the holiest place of Islam.
“We are trying to pacify everyone here. We are asking them not to cry but to pray for their souls since they died in the most holy place of Islam, Kabba,” said another relative, Nagori Mohammad Salim Yusuf.
Indian officials have assured the affected families of expediting the release of the mortal remains back to India.
Thursday’s disaster was the worst to occur at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel near Mecca. Both incidents occurred on Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Islam’s most important feast and the day of the stoning ritual.
Photographs published on the Twitter feed of Saudi civil defense on Thursday showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance.
Other images showed bodies of men in white Haj garments piled on top of each other. Some corpses bore visible injuries.
The Haj, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past, but their frequency has been greatly reduced in recent years as the government spent billions of dollars upgrading and expanding Haj infrastructure and crowd control technology.
Safety during the Haj is a politically sensitive issue for the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.