World reacts to deadly stampede during Hajj

Saudi king orders instant investigation and immediate review of annual Hajj safety plans following deadly stampede, as world offers condolences

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An ambulance evacuates victims following a crush caused by large numbers of people pushing at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca September 24, 2015

Saudi Arabian King Salman ordered an instant review of Hajj safety plans on Thursday in a televised speech, following a deadly stampede that killed over 700 people and injured almost 1,000 of various nationalities.

The king also offered his deep condolences along with the rest of the world to the families of the victims, and said whoever is proven responsible will be held accountable.

King Salman said, “We have instructed the concerned authorities to launch investigation and provide us with the results as soon as possible.”

“Our duty and responsibilities are great in terms of service of the guests of God, which is an honor to us, and towards which we appeal to Allah Almighty to help us succeed in fulfilling this great and noble mission,” he added.

Saudi security forces block the way to an area where a stampede occurred at the camp city at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca September 24, 2015.

The stampede - which took place at a crossroad on Street 204 at the camp city in Mina, a few kilometers east of Mecca - is one of the worst accidents to ever take place during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The Hajj is one of the main five pillars of the Islamic faith.

‘Undisciplined pilgrims to blame’

Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al Turki told reporters on Thursday that street 204 witnessed an unprecedentedly high number of pilgrims at the time of the incident, and said  “The reason for that is not known yet."

However, Saudi Arabia's health minister Khaled al-Falih blamed "undisciplined pilgrims" for the deadly stampede.

Al Falih said the tragedy could have been avoided had the worshippers followed instructions. The ministry launched a hotline to answer questions regarding the incident.

"If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided." Al Falih told Saudi state TV.

Pope Francis leaves St. Patrick's Cathedral after attending an evening mass in New York, September 24, 2015.

The world offers condolences

Pope Francis addressed the tragedy during a packed evening prayer service at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, expressing “closeness” with the Muslim worshippers who fell in the stampede in Mecca.

“In this moment of prayer, I unite myself with you all in prayer to God, our father, all powerful and merciful.”

“My sentiments of closeness in the face of the tragedy that their people suffered today in Mecca.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also released a statement following the accident saying he “was deeply saddened to learn of the death of more than 700 Hajj pilgrims and of injuries to many others as a result of a deadly incident in the Mina Valley in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 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.”

“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,” US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

“As Muslims around the world continue to celebrate Eid al-Adha, we join you in mourning the tragic loss of these faithful pilgrims.”

Mina stampede casualties

Official figures for the dead and injured from each country have been released by various governments.

The number of Iranian pilgrims confirmed dead so far is 131, the highest number from any country. Eight pilgrims from Egypt were killed, as well as 14 from India and four from Turkey.

More numbers will be released as the status of missing victims is verified. Saudi sources confirmed to the Huffington Post that most of the dead victims are from South East Asia and Africa, and ruled out the possibility of them including any Saudi nationals.

Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and Lebanon have all released official statements saying none of their nationals died in the incident.

TRTWorld and agencies