453 dead, 2 Indians among 730 injured in Haj stampede in Saudi

At least 453 people were killed and 730 others, including two Indians, injured today in a stampede during the Haj at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the worst incident in nearly a decade to hit the annual pilgrimage that reached its climax.

The tragedy occurred due to a sudden rush of the pilgrims on Street 204 in Mina where they perform a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls.

Over two million pilgrims, including more than 1.5 lakh Indians, are performing the Haj this year.

Officials at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah have said two Indian pilgrims from Assam were injured in the tragedy.

The Saudi civil defence authority said 453 people from different nationalities have died in the tragedy.

The incident comes days after a massive crane collapse in Mecca Grand Mosque killed 115 people, including 11 Indians.

Rescue operations were underway after the stampede in Mina.

Eyewitnesses said the stampede happened at the entrance of the Jamarat bridge near Street 204, not inside of the area where the stoning pillars are.

Two teams of medical screening have been set up at the site of the incident.

“In my camp there were about 400 pilgrims. All of them are safe. But I am trying to make some calls and ascertain from other people,” said Abid Rasool Khan, Chairman Minorities Panel, Andhra Pradesh.

The civil defence authority said its teams on the ground are leading pilgrims to safer routes away from the stampede site through alternate routes.

It said 4,000 people were taking part in rescue efforts, along with 220 ambulances.

TV footage from the incident site showed the ground strewn with injured people. Women and old men were screaming.

At least 730 pilgrims have been injured in today’s stampede.

Mina has in the past been the site of major stampedes that have killed hundreds of people.

At least 51 Indians were among 364 pilgrims killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina in 2006.

The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable.