Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said Thursday that the stampede in Mina that killed 717 people appears to have been caused by two waves of pilgrims meeting at an intersection. The country’s leader, King Salman, ordered the creation of a committee to investigate the incident.
The ministry’s spokesman, Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki, said high temperatures and the fatigue of the pilgrims may also have been factors in the disaster. He said there was no indication that authorities were to blame for the event, adding that “unfortunately, these incidents happen in a moment.”
A survivor, Ismail Hamba, 58, from Nigeria, recalled falling down and then being trampled over by marching pilgrims. “It was terrible, it was really, really terrible,” he said.
Ambulance sirens blared and helicopters hovered overhead as rescue crews rushed the injured to nearby hospitals. More than 220 rescue vehicles and some 4,000 members of the emergency services were deployed soon after the stampede to try to ease the congestion and provide alternative exit routes, according to the civil defence directorate.
Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street.
Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area.
Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security and the safety of pilgrims during the Haj, which began in earnest Tuesday. There are about 100,000 security forces deployed this year to oversee crowd management and ensure pilgrims’ safety during the five-day pilgrimage.
At Mina specifically, authorities have put measures in place over the years to try to alleviate the pressure posed by masses of pilgrims converging on the site of the stoning ritual. Less than two weeks ago, a giant construction crane came crashing down on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the focal point of the Haj.
The September 11 accident killed at least 111 people and injured more than 390.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Saudi Arabian government should accept responsibility for a crush outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca on Thursday that killed more than 700 worshippers performing the haj pilgrimage. “The Saudi government should accept the responsibility of this sorrowful incident … Mismanagement and improper actions have caused this catastrophe,” Khamenei said in a statement published on his website.
Source : http://indianexpress.com/article/world/world-news/mecca-stampede-saudi-blames-heat-orders-probe/