Hajj: More than 700 dead in Mina stampede

Saudi Arabia’s civil defense says that at least 717 pilgrims died and at least 863 others were injured on Thursday when a stampede broke out in the tent city of Mina during a Hajj pilgrimage ritual, reported Al Arabiya News.

The tragedy was the deadliest to strike the annual Hajj pilgrimage since 1990, where 1,426 Muslim pilgrims were trampled to death.

The stampede began during a morning surge of pilgrims at an intersection,  as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns, according to the civil defense directorate.

The multi-story structure, known as Jamarat Bridge, is designed to ease the pressure of the crowds and prevent pilgrims from being trampled.

Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent Abdulrahman al-Osaimi, who was reporting from the Mina emergency hospital said the stampede happened near entrance of the Jamarat Vridge near Street 204, and not inside of the Jamarat area where the stoning pillars are situated.

At a press conference before sunset prayers, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told reporters that the street at which the stampede took place “witnessed unprecedented high number of pilgrims” compared to previous years.

Pilgrims were on their way toward Jamarat, an area which holds three stone pillars that represent the devil where pilgrims symbolicly throw small stones at as one of their last major Hajj rites.

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