At least 717 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede on Thursday at the annual hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities said.
According to report, the crush happened in Mina, a large valley about five kilometres (three miles) from the holy city of Mecca that has been the site of hajj stampedes in years past.
No fewer than 805 others were recorded injured in another stampede at a side street also in Mina.
Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. It also houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.
The Saudi civil defense directorate earlier said at least 700 other pilgrims were injured in the stampede on Street 204 in Mina. It was not immediately clear if some of those previously listed as injured were included in rising death tolls.
Scores of bodies of men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during hajj were seen lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street. Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area.
It would be recalled that about two weeks ago, over 120 people lost their lives when a crane collapsed during the renovation of the grand mosque, and more than 200 people were reported injured.
In 2006, more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede also in Mina. The day before the 2006 hajj began, an eight-storey building being used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque in Mecca collapsed, killing at least 73 people.
Two years earlier, a crush at Mina killed 244 and injured hundreds on the final day of the pilgrimage. Also in 2001, a stampede at Mina killed 35 people. The worst hajj-related tragedy, which happened in 1990, killed 1,426 pilgrims in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.
Some two million people are taking part in this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which began Tuesday. Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the hajj and the safety of pilgrims. But tragedies are not uncommon. The stampede was the deadliest disaster at the hajj since 2006, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in the same area. Another stampede at Mina in 2004 left 244 pilgrims dead and hundreds injured.
About 76,000 Nigerians across all the states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory are participating in this year’s hajj, out of which scores were reported killed in the crane mishap. Despite the precautionary measures put in place by the Saudi authorities, year in year out in during the hajj period, accidents still happens that claims scores of lives. As at the time of filing this report, the death toll was still on the rise.

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