At least 717 people taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage have been killed in a stampede near the Islamic holy city of Mecca in worst hajj disaster in 25 years.
At least 805 others were injured in the crush at Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca, caused by two large groups of pilgrims arriving together at a crossroads on their way to performing the “stoning the devil” ritual at Jamarat, Saudi civil defense said.
Thursday’s disaster was the worst to befall the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims were crushed to death in a tunnel near Mecca.
The incident at Mina occurred as two million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj’s last major rite while heading to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan.
Over 220 ambulances and 4,000 rescue workers have reportedly been sent to the location.
“Work is underway to separate large groups of people and direct pilgrims to alternative routes,” the Saudi Civil Defense said.
Meanwhile, Sa’eed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, has said that at least 43 Iranians have been killed and 60 others wounded in the crush, according to ISNA.
Separately, an Iranian deputy foreign minister has announced that a special commission has been set up by the Islamic Republic to follow up on the case of the Iranian pilgrims in Mina.
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, held the Saudi authorities responsible for the deadly incident, and said they should promptly act to manage the crisis.
Preparations for the Hajj were marred when a crane collapsed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque this month, killing 109 people.
The Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. It is the journey that every able-bodied adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it.