Hyderabad: Political leaders, cutting across party lines on Saturday, visited the residence of a family that lost an elderly woman in Thursday’s stampede.
At least 717 pilgrims from around the world were killed in the worst disaster to strike the annual haj pilgrimage for 25 years.
Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup on Twitter confirmed the death of 18 nationals while 13 have been admitted to hospital in Saudi Arabia.
Telangana’s Transport Minister Patnam Mahender Reddy was the first to visit the distraught family on Friday to offer his condolences.
The family members of the 60-year-old Bibi Jaan requested Reddy to ensure that her body reaches them at the earliest so that they could carry out her last rites according to rituals.
Congress leader Hanumantha Rao visited the family and sought a compensation of five lakh rupees from the Government of India.
He also called on the Centre to hasten the process of bringing back the bodies of all those killed back home.
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.
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 Haj is a politically sensitive issue for Saudi Arabia, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.