Haj stampede: Death toll of Indians killed rises to 18

Mina: The death toll of Indian pilgrims has risen to 18 in the grisly stampede at the Haj which has so far claimed the lives of 717 people, the worst tragedy to hit the annual pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in 25 years.

“18 Indian Hajis are now confirmed dead,” Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said yesterday.

Of the 18 Indian victims, nine hailed from Gujarat, three from Tamil Nadu and one each from Telangana and Kerala. Four others are yet to be identified.

At least 13 Indians were also among the over 800 people injured in the tragedy.

As Muslim pilgrims somberly resumed the final rites of Haj yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has ordered a safety review and a “revision” of the Haj organisation.

Leading the criticism against Saudi Arabia, its regional rival Iran expressed indignation at the deaths of 131 of its nationals at the world’s largest annual gathering of people and suggesting Riyadh was incapable of managing the event.

As the blame game erupted, Saudi Arabia on its part suggested pilgrims ignoring crowd control rules bore some blame for the stampede. At least 863 pilgrims were also injured in the mishap in Mina during the Haj’s last major ritual.