Hajj Stampede Death Toll Surpasses 1000

BenarNews Staff
151002-SA-SEA-hajj-1000 Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the site of a stampede that left hundreds dead, Sept. 25, 2015.

The death toll in the Muslim pilgrim disaster in Saudi Arabia has jumped to more than 1,000 as Indonesia and Iran reported much higher casualty figures than initially feared.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, said Friday that 91 of its pilgrims died in the stampede on Sept. 24 near Islam's holy city of Mecca. When the tragedy struck, only about a dozen people from the archipelago were reported dead.

Thirty-eight Indonesians remain missing after the disaster in Mina, the Indonesian Hajj Affairs Office in Mecca said in a statement.

"Through today, the total who died is 91 people, including 86 hajj pilgrims [from Indonesia] and five Indonesian residents in Saudi Arabia," Arsyad Hidayat, an official with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, was quoted as saying in Jeddah on Friday.

"We will continue efforts to seek the pilgrims who are still missing and provide news as quickly as possible to meet the information needs of families, relatives, and all Indonesians," Arsyad said.

Saudi authorities have not given a country-by-country breakdown of the 769 pilgrims they say were killed in the stampede.

But the Agence France-Presse and Associated Press news agencies reported that the death toll given by foreign officials and media was now 1,036, well in excess of the Saudi figure. AFP tallies show another 703 people as unaccounted for.

The total figure could be even larger as an AP survey covered only 15 of the more than 180 countries that sent some 2 million pilgrims on the annual pilgrimage, a pillar of Islamic faith.

Faisal Alzahrani, the Saudi Health Ministry's general director of communications, told AP late Thursday night that his office's figure of 769 killed and 934 injured in Mina remained accurate.

He has said that civil defense authorities would announce future totals as Saudi authorities continue to investigate the cause of the disaster.

Among all countries, Iran has lost the most pilgrims – 465 – nearly double its earlier count, according to a list published Thursday by Iranian state news agency IRNA.

Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran's hajj department, told state television that Iranian officials were trying to return bodies of Iranian pilgrims "as soon as possible." He said Iran and Saudi Arabia had agreed not to bury any of the dead in Saudi Arabia without prior permission by Iran or the families of the deceased.

The disaster has fed into the bitter regional rivalry between the Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Iran, which back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned this week of "harsh" measures if Saudi Arabia failed to promptly repatriate the bodies of the Iranian dead.

On Thursday, Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 41 people from the country had died in the stampede, and more than 50 others were still missing.

Citing information from its Jeddah consulate, the Bangladeshi government said that 61 others were believed injured.

Saudi authorities have said the disaster occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing many to suffocate or be trampled to death.


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