ISLAMABAD/ MAKKAH: At least 717 pilgrims died while another 863 were wounded in a stampede during the stoning of Satan at Mina, the Saudi civil defence said on Thursday.
The pilgrims were killed in a crush at Mina, outside the holy city of Makkah, where some two million people are performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
ارتفاع عدد الإصابات إلى 719 والوفيات إلى 453 حالة وفاة.— الدفاع المدني السعودي (@SaudiDCD) September 24, 2015
لا تزال عمليات الفرز مستمرة، وارتفع عدد الإصابات إلى 400 إصابة و 150 حالة وفاة. pic.twitter.com/HjZ2QuiYst— الدفاع المدني السعودي (@SaudiDCD) September 24, 2015
The crush, in which at least 863 others were injured, took place on Street 204 of the camp city at Mina, a few kilometres east of Makkah, where pilgrims stay for several days during the climax of the Hajj.
It has traditionally been the most dangerous day of Hajj because vast numbers of pilgrims attempt to perform rituals at the same time in a single location.
Read: Short-circuit: 1,500 Hajj pilgrims escape hotel fire
Street 204 is one of the two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, where pilgrims ritually stone the devil by hurling pebbles at three large pillars.
Photographs published on the civil defence Twitter feed showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance.
"Work is underway to separate large groups of people and direct pilgrims to alternative routes," the Saudi Civil Defence said on its Twitter account.
Director General Hajj Operations Abu Akif said there are reports of around seven Pakistani pilgrims among those killed in the stampede.
Read: PM expresses condolences for Hajj stampede victims
Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesperson said so far they had received no information regarding the number of Pakistanis who embraced martyrdom or sustained injuries during the tragic incident.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Qazi Khalilullah said the Foreign Office was in close contact with the ambassador, who is also performing Hajj and was present in Mina at the time of the incident.
When questioned about media reports that seven Pakistani pilgrims embraced martyrdom, he said, “I can only confirm the number of dead or injured once I get the details from the ambassador, who is visiting hospitals and gathering information.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in touch with embassy officials and is trying to ascertain if any Pakistani pilgrim has been affected by the incident. We pray for their safety,” he said.
Directives have been given to the Pakistani embassy in Saudi Arabia to facilitate Pakistani pilgrims, added the spokesperson.
Helplines have also been setup to provide details of Pakistani pilgrims. The information can be sought from 00966125277537 and 00966125458000.
The pilgrimage, the world's largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of deadly stampedes in the past, as well as other disasters including tent fires and riots.
However, massive infrastructure upgrades and extensive spending on crowd control technology over the past two decades had made such events far less common.
On Monday, a fire forced some 1,500 people from their hotel in Makkah as pilgrims gathered for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the Saudi civil defence department had said. Four Yemeni pilgrims had sustained minor injuries following the pre-dawn fire in a 15-storey hotel, state news agency SPA quoted the department as saying.
The Hajj has been almost incident-free for the past decade. However, 108 people, including foreign pilgrims, died earlier this month when a construction crane fell on the Grand Mosque.
Earlier on September 12, a massive construction crane crashed into Makkah’s Grand Mosque in stormy weather, killing at least 108 people and injuring scores others, Saudi authorities said, less than a fortnight before the Hajj pilgrimage starts.
Read: Grand Mosque crane collapse leaves 87 dead
The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a “crane fell at the Grand Mosque.” That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah was “witnessing medium to heavy rains,” with pictures circulating on social media showing lightning.
Please Call your love ones , the deaths keep on raising #MinaStampede— Ahmad Mari (@Ahmad_YoCrew) September 24, 2015
Extremely unfortunate incident of #MinaStampede— ساره |🥀Sarah (@ReideGul__x) September 24, 2015
My heart goes out for families of Shuhada
May Allah give them patience Ameen :(
Saddened to hear about #MinaStampede may Allah give countless blessing on injured and martyrs— Yasir Hameed (@Yasir_HameedQ) September 24, 2015
Below is a timeline of major incidents over the years during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia:
White House voices condolences over 'heartbreaking' hajj stampede
The White House on Thursday offered condolences after a "heartbreaking" stampede.
"The United States expresses its deepest condolences to the families of the hundreds of Hajj pilgrims killed and hundreds more injured in the heartbreaking stampede in Mina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.
"As Muslims around the world continue to celebrate Eid al-Adha, we join you in mourning the tragic loss of these faithful pilgrims."
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