‘Nine Sudanese dead in Hajj stampede, 20 still missing’
The toll of Sudanese pilgrims who died in the stampede in Mina valley, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia, on Thursday has risen to nine.
The 13 wounded and are being treated at a hospital in the neighbourhood, while 20 Sudanese pilgrims are still missing, the Sudanese Hajj [Muslim pilgrimage] Directorate announced today.
The Directorate confirmed in a statement that eight other Sudanese nationals died of natural causes.
More than 750 people were crushed to death and at least 900 were injured when panic broke out when two streams of pilgrims, preparing for one of the last major rites of their pilgrimage, collided at the intersection of two narrow streets.
Two Sudanese pilgrims managed to escape death by climbing onto the roof of a tent when the deadly stampede occurred. When the situation became somewhat normal, they came down and started to help the wounded.
Haisam Khalafallah (46) told Al Hayat newspaper that he and his 44-year-old compatriot, Yousef Mohamed, were able to pull out 40 severely injured pilgrims and place them on the rooves of the tents. They covered the dead pilgrims with their ihram and left them right where they were.
“We stayed on the top of a tent for about an hour and a half under the scorching sun and then came down to participate in the rescue operation,” he said.
He added that those in charge of the tents should be held partly responsible for the large number of deaths as they refused to let the pilgrims in.
Mohamed said they were coming on foot from Muzdalaifah to stone the devil when the incident happened. He blamed the congestion of pilgrims, lack of oxygen owing to the terrible heat, and the reverse movement of the pilgrims on Street 204 to be among the causes of the tragedy.
“In their panic, a number of pilgrims tried to escape the stampede thus worsening the situation,” he explained.
This year's Hajj was afflicted by a double tragedy. On 11 September, some days before the start of the Hajj, a construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.
(Sources: Saudi Gazette, Al Arabiya English)
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