MINA: At least 717 pilgrims including 125 Iranian and 7 Pakistanis were killed on Thursday in a crush at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Makkah, where some two million people are performing Haj.
The Saudi civil defence directorate Tweeted saying that over 800 people were injured in the incident. There are no details as yet regarding the cause of the stampede.
Television reports quoted Director-General (DG) Haj saying that seven Pakistanis had also lost their lives in the tragic incident. The DG Haj added that two Pakistanis had been rescued after the stampede, according to reports.
Rescue operations are under way and an emergency has been declared in all nearby hospitals. At least 4,000 emergency personnel, 220 ambulances and six helicopters are taking part in the rescue operations, the service said.
Photos released by the directorate on its official Twitter account showed rescue workers in orange and yellow vests helping the wounded onto stretchers and loading them onto ambulances near some of the white tents.
Teams on the ground are leading pilgrims away from the stampede, to safety, by means of alternate routes, the civil defence service said.
The incident occurred across the street number 204 at its intersection with the street number 223 in Mina at nine am (local time), the Radio Pakistan Website quoted a spokesman of Saudi Directorate of Civil Defense.
He further said that pilgrims were flocking to Jamarat site to throw pebbles at grand Jamarat Aqaba when there was a sudden increase in number of pilgrims heading towards Jamarat facility.
The spokesman said that security men and Saudi Red Crescent Authority’s personnel rushed to the site to control the situation. They regulated the pilgrims’ traffic towards the incident site and took immediate procedures to rescue and save the pilgrims.
Mina is a large valley about five kilometres from the holy city of Makkah. The valley houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage. Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. The temperature in the valley is approximately 45 degree Celsius.
The stampede took place near Maktib Number 93 where mostly Algerian pilgrims are staying, according to a report on the Radio Pakistan website.
Information regarding the well-being of Pakistani pilgrims is being collected, the Foreign Office said. The Pakistani Embassy is in touch with Saudi authorities in this regard, Radio Pakistan reported.
President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed grief and sorrow over the loss of lives in the tragic incident.
Premier Nawaz Sharif directed Pakistan’s Ambassador in Saudia Arabia to “visit the injured at the hospitals and facilitate the injured and the martyred as much as possible”.