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Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where millions of Muslim pilgrims come every year for Hajj.

Hajj stampede: 717 people dead

An investigation has begun after 717 people have died and another 863 injured in the deadliest stampede over Hajj for 25 years.

The stampede begun on Street 204 on the fifth day of Hajj. On that day, hundreds of pilgrims were moving between a large campsite and an area called Mina in Saudi Arabia, a valley that hosts part of a Hajj ritual. In this ritual, pilgrims throw seven stones at three pillars, to represent the stoning of the devil.

Some officials believe that the earlier closing of two other paths leading to the site of the ritual could be to blame for the bottleneck on Street 204, leading the large groups of pilgrims returning from the ritual and the pilgrims going to the ritual to collide and cause the crush.

hajj

Bodies line the street in the aftermath of the Hajj stampede that left hundreds dead (photo courtesy of AFP/Getty Images)

Tchima Illa Issoufou, A BBC journalist at Mecca described the chaos of the scene, including losing members of his own family in the crush; “People were just climbing on top of others in order to move to a safer place and that’s how some people died. People were chanting Allah’s name while others were crying, including children and infants. People fell on the ground seeking help but there was no-one to give them a helping hand. Everybody seemed to be on their own.”

The tragedy has also brought about condemnation from Iran about the lack of safety in the ritual. 131 Iraqis died in yesterdays incident, but many different nationalities have been affected by the deaths.

Around 4,000 people from the emergency services were called in to the scene to help, and 220 ambulances were utilised.

The deadliest disaster that has ever happened at Hajj also took place in Mina, when 1,426 people died in a stampede in 1990.

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