RISK: More than 700 pilgrims killed in a stampede outside Mecca

Authorities blamed construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, which oversees construction at the mosque, for not following operating procedures

At least 717 pilgrims died in a stampede outside Mecca today and at least another 863 were injured, according to the Saudi civil defence force.

It was the second major disaster during this year’s hajj season, raising questions about the adequacy of measures put in place by Saudi authorities to ensure the safety of the roughly 2 million Muslims taking part. A crane collapse in Mecca nearly two weeks earlier left 111 people dead.

Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the hajj and the safety of pilgrims. There are about 100,000 security forces deployed this year to oversee crowd management and ensure pilgrims’ safety during the five-day pilgrimage.

Thursday’s crush happened in Mina, a large valley about 5 kilometres from Mecca that has been the site of hajj stampedes in years past.

Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies–the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during hajj–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.

Authorities blamed the crane collapse on high winds during an unusually powerful storm, and faulted the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, which oversees construction at the mosque, for not following operating procedures.

Some 2 million people are taking part in this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which is an obligation of every able-bodied Muslim.

 

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P.
Transcontinental Media G.P.