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Hundreds still missing a week after hajj stampede

Mina-Tents-Hajj-Pictures

Dubai: Hundreds of people were still unaccounted for today, a week after a hajj stampede killed hundreds more, with national tallies of the dead far exceeding figures provided by Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom gave a toll of 769 people killed and 934 injured in the tragedy during a pilgrimage stoning ritual at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has not given any figures for the number of missing, or said whether any Saudis — who constitute a minority of pilgrims — were among the dead.

A tally of death tolls from 23 countries, mostly from official sources, put the number at more than 940.

In excess of 600 others are reported as missing.

Since the beginning, Iran topped the list of fatalities at 239. But it nearly doubled that toll today by declaring that people known to be missing were now presumed dead, raising the figure to 464.

Iran has laid the blame for the stampede at Saudi Arabia’s door, saying that those responsible for the security of pilgrims failed to follow adequate procedures.

Tehran has demanded an apology from Riyadh and accused it of hindering efforts to repatriate the bodies.

There is also anger and anxiety elsewhere in the Muslim world.

“The families of the missing people are in distress,” the Arab News quoted Mehbooba Mufti, leader of India’s hajj delegation, as saying.

“With each passing day, their anxiety worsens,” she said, urging Saudi Arabia to institute a mechanism to locate the missing pilgrims.

India has reported 51 deaths, while its neighbour Pakistan gave a figure of 46 dead and more than 40 of unaccounted for.

The country’s media regulator, PEMRA, ordered television channels to tone down criticism of Saudi Arabia in order to avoid offending one of Pakistan’s closest allies.

After Iran, Egypt has reported the biggest death toll, with 75 killed and 95 missing.

Nigeria has 64 confirmed deaths and 244 missing.

The Al-Madinah daily newspaper reported Thursday that 20 teams from the kingdom’s passports department are visiting Mecca-area hospitals to record fingerprints of the dead, and of the injured who have not yet been identified.

They use a machine which stores the prints for later identification, the report said.

Cisse Fatoumata Kouyate, president of Mali’s travel agents and tourism association, said Saudi Arabia has also taken pictures of the dead and displayed them in Mina “so that people can find or at least know that this person lost their life.”

This is how Mali learned that 60 of its people died, she said.