Saudi Arabia to conduct safety review into Hajj tragedy

The Hajj in 2009 Photo: Al Jazeera English

Saudi Arabia is conducting an urgent safety review into the causes of the fatal crush during the Hajj.

More than 700 people were killed in a crush outside Mecca during the annual pilgrimage, with at least another 850 people injured. The tragic event occurred as groups preparing for one of the final stages of the ritual collided at the intersection of two streets near to Jamarat Bridge in Mina. The valley, which is around 3 miles from Mecca, is where pilgrims go to symbolically throw stones at pillars in a place where Satan is believed to have tempted Abraham.

The ensuing disaster was the worst tragedy to occur during the pilgrimage in a quarter of century, prompting officials to order an urgent inquiry into the causes of the incident and how it might be prevented in future.

Abdullah Lotfy, 44, from Egypt, told The Associated Press that the people were “climbing over one another just to breathe”.

“It was a like a wave. You go forward and suddenly you go back.”

“I saw the pilgrims were falling down and getting crushed and heard women and elderly people were screaming, asking for help,” one survivor told The Guardian . “I tried very hard to get out, I lost all my clothes, they were torn off but I didn’t care and I managed to get out.

“Then I tried to get in one of the tented camps but I was blocked by the security forces who kept preventing anyone from entering, and that doubled the crisis.”

More than 2 million people travel to the holy city every year.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said in a statement : “We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan and to raise the level of organisation and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease.”