100 Pilgrims Are Killed In Mecca In Stampede

Saudi officials put the death toll at more than 150 and said other victims included Indians, Pakistanis and Egyptians. The official Saudi Press Agency said 107 had died.

Crowds of tens of thousands had struggled with heat that topped 100 degrees. Helicopter crews earlier hovered overhead to spot pilgrims fainting, and workers on trucks threw down bags of chilled water.

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Policemen using loudspeakers had pleaded in Arabic, English, French and Urdu for pilgrims to move along quickly. Other policemen with batons made room for pilgrims wanting to escape the crowds.

In past years, the haj has been marred by stampedes, fires and political protests that turned violent.

Last year, fires driven by high winds tore through a sprawling, overcrowded tent city at Mina, killing more than 340 pilgrims and injuring 1,500. In 1994, 270 pilgrims, mostly Indonesians, were killed in a similar stampede during the stoning of the devil.

In the worst tragedy, 1,426 pilgrims, many of them Malaysians, Indonesians and Pakistanis, were killed in 1990 in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.

Until today, Saudi officials who oversee the pilgrimage had praised the smooth running of this year's haj, which drew 2.3 million Muslims from about 100 countries.

By evening today, thousands of pilgrims were making their way to circle the Kaaba to end the pilgrimage, an obligation once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it. The Kaaba, a cube-like structure at the Grand Mosque, is the spiritual center of Islam.

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/1998/04/10/world/100-pilgrims-are-killed-in-mecca-in-stampede.html

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