About 717 people were killed in a stampede during the Muslim pilgrimage, Hajj, near Mecca, the Saudi Arabian authorities reported.
The incident happened at an intersection in Mina where pilgrims were moving towards the Jamarat Bridge. They were performing the last important rite called Jamarat where they “throw stones at pillars that represent the devil.”
BBC reports that while the rites were happening, it “suddenly became chaotic and people started going down.” People were crying, calling the name of Allah, while some were climbing on top of other people just to be able to breathe, which resulted to the deadly stampede.
Aside from the fatalities, another 863 people were injured, and that is this is “the deadliest incident to occur during the pilgrimage in 25 years.”
One Arab pilgrim told Huffington Post that he originally wanted to perform the ritual in the afternoon, but after such incident, he is just “now too frightened to risk doing so.”
It is to be recalled that nearly two weeks before the Hajj pilgrimage, at least 107 were killed and 238 people were injured in Mecca’s Grand Mosque when a crane collapsed. It was said that the crane “was brought down by strong wind and heavy rains”, notes Aljazeera.
Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed their grief over the incident, as reported in ABC News.
“This tragic incident is all the more distressing as it took place on the first day of the Holy Eid al-Adha marking the end of the annual Hajj season,” said the spokesman of the UN Secretary General.
When the Pope arrived in New York, his first public remark included, “I want to express the closeness of the church in the face of the tragedy people suffered in Mecca.”
The cause of the tragedy is still unknown as investigations and findings are still ongoing.