MINA: At least 717 pilgrims have been martyred following a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia while 863 have been injured.
The stampede began at around 9:00 am (0600 GMT), shortly after the Saudi civil defence service said on Twitter it was dealing with a “crowding” incident in Mina, about five kilometres (three miles) from Makkah.
The stampede took place during the thirteenth obligation of Hajj, Rami of Jamarat (stoning the devil) near Maktab (camp) number 93 along street number 204, where pilgrims mainly from Algeria were staying.
The injured are being shifted to the Mina General Hospital where emergency has been declared. Over 4,000 paramedics are taking part in rescue operations.
A Pakistani is among those martyred in the Mina stampede. He has been identified as Arif a resident of Lahore. His wife who was accompanying him during the Hajj pilgrimage called family and confirmed Arif’s passing.
Foreign Office has set up a help line to provide details of Pakistani Hajjis: 00966125277537
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif upon hearing of the incident expressed his sorrow and prayed for those martyred.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has ordered an investigation into the stampede, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Prince Nayef, who chairs the Saudi Hajj committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place, SPA reported.
Mina is located 5-kilometers east of the Holy city and stands on the road leading from the center of Makkah city to the hill of Arafat.
Saudi Arabia´s health minister blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the deadly stampede, saying the tragedy would not have occurred if they “had followed instructions”.
Health Minister Khaled al-Falih was quoted by El-Ekhbariya television as saying “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities, which was the “principal reason for this type of accident.”
“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.
Earlier, on the 11th of September 107 pilgrims were killed in Makkah when a construction crane toppled due to sever weather conditions.
Approximately 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world journeyed to the holy land of Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj this year, including 143,368 pilgrims from Pakistan. Over 100,000 policemen had been deployed to secure the pilgrimage sites and manage the crowds.
In 2006, more than 300 pilgrims were martyred in a stampede during Rami – the stoning ritual. More than 250 were martyred in a similar incident in 2004.
Following the unfortunate incidents in 2004 and 2006 the Saudi authorities invested billions of dollars in transport and other infrastructure to facilitate the movement of the large numbers of pilgrims who take part in the pilgrimage.