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HAJJ STAMPEDE BEYOND HUMAN CONTROL - SAYS TOP SAUDI CLERIC


SEPTEMBER 26 -Residents of Dhaka scramble to reach the roof of an overcrowded train at a train station in Dhaka on Sept 25, 2015. Muslims across the world celebrate the annual festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and in commemoration of Prophet Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son to show obedience to God. AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT
Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader says a stampede which killed 717 pilgrims was beyond human control, official media reported on Saturday, the final day of this year’s hajj.
The stampede was the worst disaster in a quarter-century to strike the annual event and drew fierce criticism of the Saudi authorities’ handling of safety, particularly from regional rival Iran.“You are not responsible for what happened”, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a meeting in Mina on Friday, the official Saudi Press Agency(SPA) reported. “As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable,” Sheikh told the prince, who is also minister of interior. READ MORE...

ALSO: Noy calls for solidarity as nation marks Eid’l Adha


SEPTEMBER 25 -A Filipino Muslim woman prays during Eid al-Adha at the Blue Mosque in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, by sacrificing animals to commemorate the prophet Ibrahim's faith in being willing to sacrifice his son. AP Photo /Aaron Favila
 President Aquino called for solidarity, tranquility and clarity of purpose and a reminder of the “stories of sacrifice upon which we built our nation” as Muslims all over the world mark Eid’l Adha or Feast of Sacrifice today. “We owe this era of peace to those who readily laid down their lives to secure a better future for their fellowmen,” he said in his message yesterday. “We, as adamantly and relentlessly as our heroes, will continue to fight for their dream: a peaceful, harmonious and inclusive Philippines.” Eid’l Adha commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians) to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Aquino said Ibrahim’s tale “inspires strength and courage in the face of doubt, challenges and despair, especially to those bereft of hope, stricken by tragedy and the disquiet of communities long neglected by those in power.” “Let it reinforce our bonds as we work together to fulfil our mission of perpetuating positive change in society,” Aquino added. In separate Eid’l Adha messages, local officials called on Muslims to continue supporting President Aquino’s peace process. READ MORE...

ALSO UNFATHOMABLE!: More than 700 pilgrims killed in Saudi Hajj stampede


SEPTEMBER 24 -Pilgrimage: Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, late on Sept. 20, 2015. The annual hajj pilgrimage begins on Sept. 22, and more than a million faithful have already flocked to Saudi Arabia in preparation for what will for many be the highlight of their spiritual lives. AFP At least 717 pilgrims killed and 863 injured in crush at Mina outside Mecca, Saudi's civil defence reports. Share via Facebook 36133 Share via Twitter 4352Share via Reddit12All Social Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker EmailPrintSend Feedback More to this story Hajj stampede - LIVE BLOG Saudi Arabia suspends work of Mecca crane collapse firm Saudi crane collapse kills 107 in Mecca Grand Mosque At least 717 people have been killed in a stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia's civil defence directorate said, as the death toll continued to rise. The directorate said at least 863 other pilgrims were injured in Thursday's stampede, which took place in Mina, on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca. The injured have been evacuated to four different hospitals in the Mina region, according to a civil defence spokesman. Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, ordered a probe into how the tragedy had occurred. Nayef, who chairs the Saudi hajj committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place. The findings of the investigation will be submitted to King Salman, "who will take appropriate measures" in response, the Saudi Press agency said. 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. READ MORE...

ALSO International condolences: Iranians slam Saudis over 'mismanagement' at Hajj stampede


SEPTEMBER 25 -GRAPHIC CONTENT Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the stampede site. The supreme leader of Iran criticizes Saudi Arabia for "mismanagement" and "improper measures" U.S., NATO and others send messages of condolences to the Saudis Pope expresses "sentiments of closeness in the face of the tragedy" (CNN)
International condolences -- and condemnation -- flooded into Saudi Arabia on Friday following a Hajj stampede in Mecca a day earlier that killed more than 700 pilgrims. Officials from the United States, Turkey, NATO and the United Nations expressed condolences over the horrendous loss of life. But Iran led the criticism of the Saudis, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasting the Saudi government, saying it should accept responsibility for the disaster. "Mismanagement and improper measures that caused this tragedy should not be overlooked," Khamenei said. "The Saudi government is required to accept its heavy responsibility for this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness." On Thursday, a deadly crush killed 717 people as two lines of people converged during the Hajj, causing the annual pilgrimage's worst accident in 25 years. For many, the trip of a lifetime More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims who have the financial and physical ability must make at some point in their lives. Many have saved for decades to make the journey. Iran's semiofficial FARS News Agency said 131 Iranians were killed in the crush and 150 injured. Other international officials were more charitable than the Iranians. READ MORE...

ALSO: What caused the Hajj stampede?


SEPTEMBER 26 -Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan in Mina, the scene of the fatal stampede.
(CNN)A day after a deadly crush killed 717 people during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, a critical question remained Friday: What caused the chaotic stampede? Among the suggested causes: Pilgrims rushing to complete the rituals, ●the heat, exhaustion
masses of faithful pushing against each other in opposite directions, even  confusion among the many first-timers on the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Mina. Too many people, too little time More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims who have the financial and physical ability make at some point in their lives. The millions of people must perform a litany of rituals in five days, including the symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina, about 2 miles away from the Mecca holy site. That's where the deadly stampede took place Thursday, the third day of the five-day event. Officials say 717 people died and 900 were injured. Iran's semiofficial FARS news agency said that 131 Iranians were among the dead. Another 365 remained missing, the state-run IRNA news agency reported, cautioning against assuming they have died. At least 717 killed in Hajj stampede Sept 26, 2015 02:21 Still rising at 769 as of Sept 27, 2015, 10 am. The dead were from at least 13 nations. READ MORE... WATCH VIDEO...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Hajj stampede beyond human control, says top Saudi cleric


Residents of Dhaka scramble to reach the roof of an overcrowded train at a train station in Dhaka on September 25, 2015. Muslims across the world celebrate the annual festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and in commemoration of Prophet Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son to show obedience to God. AFP PHOTO / ROBERTO SCHMIDT

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 28, 2015 (AL JAZEERA) September 26, 2015 - Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader says a stampede which killed 717 pilgrims was beyond human control, official media reported on Saturday, the final day of this year’s hajj.

The stampede was the worst disaster in a quarter-century to strike the annual event and drew fierce criticism of the Saudi authorities’ handling of safety, particularly from regional rival Iran.

“You are not responsible for what happened”, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in a meeting in Mina on Friday, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

“As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable,” Sheikh told the prince, who is also minister of interior.

READ MORE...

Mohammed chairs the Saudi hajj committee and has ordered an investigation into Thursday’s stampede during a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims at Jamarat Bridge in Mina, just outside the holy city of Mecca.

King Salman, whose official title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in Mecca and Medina, also ordered “a revision” of how the hajj is organised.

On Saturday, groups of pilgrims were moving from early morning towards Jamarat Bridge for the last of three stoning days.


People were going towards the direction of throwing the stones while others were coming from the opposite direction. Then it became chaotic and suddenly people started going down. There were people from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Senegal among other nationalities. 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. FROM BBC.COM

The interior ministry has said it assigned 100,000 police to secure the hajj and manage crowds.

But pilgrims blamed the stampede on police road closures and poor management of the flow of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in searing temperatures.

Abdullah al-Sheikh, chairman of the Shura Council, an appointed body which advises the government, stressed that pilgrims must stick to “the rules and regulations taken by the security personnel… In doing so they protect their lives, their security and facilitate their performing of the rituals.”

Health Minister Khaled al-Falih earlier made similar remarks that faulted the worshippers.

‘Biased campaigns’

In comments carried late Friday by SPA, the Shura chairman called on citizens and Muslims to ignore “the biased campaigns carried out by the enemies of this pure country, to question the great efforts exerted by the kingdom to serve the holy sites, their construction and expansion, and to serve the visitors and pilgrims.”

Riyadh’s regional rival Iran said 131 of its nationals were among the victims, and on Friday stepped up its criticism of the kingdom, demanding that affected countries have a role in the Saudi investigation into the disaster.

“Saudi Arabia is incapable of organising the pilgrimage,” said Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani, leading the main weekly prayers in Tehran.

“The running of the hajj must be handed over to Islamic states,” he said.

Several African countries confirmed deaths in the stampede, as did India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Netherlands. Moroccan media gave 87 nationals killed.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari urged King Salman “to ensure a comprehensive and thorough exercise that will identify any flaws in hajj organisation”.

Buhari said his country had lost a prominent journalist, a professor “and others” in the tragedy.

Largely incident-free for nine years after safety improvements, this year’s hajj was afflicted by double tragedy.

Days before it started, a construction crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people including many foreigners.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which each of the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims is expected to perform at least once in his or her lifetime, as long as they are capable.


PHILSTAR

Noy calls for solidarity as nation marks Eid’l Adha By John Unson, Ramon Lazaro, Gerry Lee Gorit (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 25, 2015 - 12:00am 1 6 googleplus0 1


A Filipino Muslim woman prays during Eid al-Adha at the Blue Mosque in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, by sacrificing animals to commemorate the prophet Ibrahim's faith in being willing to sacrifice his son. AP Photo/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino called for solidarity, tranquility and clarity of purpose and a reminder of the “stories of sacrifice upon which we built our nation” as Muslims all over the world mark Eid’l Adha or Feast of Sacrifice today.

“We owe this era of peace to those who readily laid down their lives to secure a better future for their fellowmen,” he said in his message yesterday. “We, as adamantly and relentlessly as our heroes, will continue to fight for their dream: a peaceful, harmonious and inclusive Philippines.”

Eid’l Adha commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians) to follow Allah’s (God’s) command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

Aquino said Ibrahim’s tale “inspires strength and courage in the face of doubt, challenges and despair, especially to those bereft of hope, stricken by tragedy and the disquiet of communities long neglected by those in power.”

“Let it reinforce our bonds as we work together to fulfil our mission of perpetuating positive change in society,” Aquino added.

In separate Eid’l Adha messages, local officials called on Muslims to continue supporting President Aquino’s peace process.

READ MORE...

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told The STAR via text message that only through religious solidarity among ARMM’s Muslim, Christian and indigenous lumad folks and a deep understanding of the true political undercurrents in the country’s south can peace take root in the region.

“Let the essence of Eid’l Adha remind us of how important is sacrifice, in its many forms, to achieve unity and lasting peace among all people in Southern Mindanao,” Hataman said.

The ARMM has more than five million Muslim residents scattered in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, both in Central Mindanao, and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and in the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

The commander of the 6th Infantry Division, Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, had told his Muslim subordinates, during a simple program after their Eid’l Adha worship rites, that religions should not set Muslims, Christians and lumad people apart, nor put permanent barriers among them.

“All religions teach fear of God, respect for life and humanity. We can stand united in that aspect of our respective faiths,” Pangilinan said.

Non-Muslim ethnic Teduray chieftain and North Upi town Mayor Ramon Piang also assured everyone of local government support to achieve religious solidarity in the area.

Meanwhile, thousands of foreign and local Muslims gathered at the Pelaez Sports Center in Cagayan de Oro City yesterday morning to celebrate Eid’l Adha.

Adzhar Madjid, a youth leader, said more than 2,000 Muslims converged at the center to spend time with friends and families as part of the Islamic festival.

In Central Mindanao, moderate rains brought about by storm Dujuan forced thousands to gather inside mosques and covered courts for an otherwise outdoor celebration.

Most clerics who led the prayers in different worship sites focused their khutab (sermon) on the tenets of sacrifice to achieve spiritual perfection as related in the Bible and the Qur’an.

Aside from the Islamic competitions, Madjid said the festival, one of two most important events for Muslims, also translates to the slaughter of at least 300 cows in Northern Mindanao for the traditional meat distribution.

Madjid said Muslims will also converge today in the Islamic City of Marawi for the Feast of Sacrifice and commemorate the willingness of Abraham to obey God.


AL JAZEERA

More than 700 killed in Saudi Hajj stampede By AL JAZEERA 24 Sep 2015 17:13 GMT | Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Hajj


Pilgrimage. Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, late on Sept. 20, 2015. The annual hajj pilgrimage begins on Sept. 22, and more than a million faithful have already flocked to Saudi Arabia in preparation for what will for many be the highlight of their spiritual lives. AFP

MIDDLE EAST -At least 717 pilgrims killed and 863 injured in crush at Mina outside Mecca, Saudi's civil defence reports.

Share via Facebook 36133 Share via Twitter 4352Share via Reddit12All Social Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker EmailPrintSend Feedback

More to this story Hajj stampede - LIVE BLOG Saudi Arabia suspends work of Mecca crane collapse firm Saudi crane collapse kills 107 in Mecca Grand Mosque At least 717 people have been killed in a stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia's civil defence directorate said, as the death toll continued to rise.

The directorate said at least 863 other pilgrims were injured in Thursday's stampede, which took place in Mina, on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca.

The injured have been evacuated to four different hospitals in the Mina region, according to a civil defence spokesman.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, ordered a probe into how the tragedy had occurred.

Nayef, who chairs the Saudi hajj committee, ordered the probe during a meeting with senior officials responsible for the pilgrimage in Mina, where the stampede took place.

The findings of the investigation will be submitted to King Salman, "who will take appropriate measures" in response, the Saudi Press agency said.

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.

READ MORE...

Al Jazeera's Basma Atassi, reporting from Mina, said the incident took place in a street between pilgrim camps.

"The street where it happened is named Street 204. This stampede did not happen at the site of the 'stoning of the devil' ritual, which was happening today," she said.

"During and after the stampede the pilgrims continued to flock into Mina to perform the devil stoning ritual."

Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies - the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj - lying alongside crushed wheelchairs and water bottles.

The head of the Central Hajj Committee, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, blamed the stampede on "some pilgrims from African nationalities," Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV channel reported.

Iranian authorities have said that at least 43 Iranian nationals were killed in the stampede.

Survivors assessed the scene by standing on the top of roadside stalls as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area.

About 4,000 people from the rescue services were participating in the operation to help the injured and about 220 ambulances were directed to the scene, a civil defence spokesman said.

Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Mecca, said the number of deaths could rise.

"This is only the initial number ... The Hajj season was already overshadowed by the crane accident that killed 107 people and wounded more than 200," Alsaleh said, adding: "The area has turned to a big massive construction site to allow more pilgrims to visit Mecca during Hajj.

"Mina has more than 160,000 tents divided over several camps, and with the 1.9 million people taking part in this year's Hajj, you will understand the logistical nightmare that the Saudi authorities are facing.

"I've seen some footage and it's really sad. I've seen piles of bodies on top of each other."

Deadly Hajj incidents

Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the Hajj and the safety of pilgrims. But tragedies are not uncommon.

In 2006, more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede, also in Mina.

The day before the 2006 Hajj began, an eight-story 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.

And, 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. Source: Al Jazeera


CNN

Iranians slam Saudis over 'mismanagement' at Hajj stampede By Don Melvin, CNN Updated 4:19 PM ET, Fri September 25, 2015

Hajj stampede tragedy kills at least 717 pilgrims


GRAPHIC CONTENT Saudi emergency personnel stand near bodies of Hajj pilgrims at the stampede site.Iran's supreme leader criticizes Saudi Arabia for "mismanagement" and "improper measures" U.S., NATO and others send messages of condolences to the Saudis Pope expresses "sentiments of closeness in the face of the tragedy" (CNN)

International condolences -- and condemnation -- flooded into Saudi Arabia on Friday following a Hajj stampede in Mecca a day earlier that killed more than 700 pilgrims.

Officials from the United States, Turkey, NATO and the United Nations expressed condolences over the horrendous loss of life.

But Iran led the criticism of the Saudis, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasting the Saudi government, saying it should accept responsibility for the disaster.

"Mismanagement and improper measures that caused this tragedy should not be overlooked," Khamenei said. " The Saudi government is required to accept its heavy responsibility for this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness."

On Thursday, a deadly crush killed 717 people as two lines of people converged during the Hajj, causing the annual pilgrimage's worst accident in 25 years.

For many, the trip of a lifetime

More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims who have the financial and physical ability must make at some point in their lives. Many have saved for decades to make the journey.

Iran's semiofficial FARS News Agency said 131 Iranians were killed in the crush and 150 injured.

Other international officials were more charitable than the Iranians.

READ MORE...

Speaking Thursday during an evening prayer service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Pope Francis said he wanted to express "my sentiments of closeness in the face of the tragedy that their people suffered today in Mecca."


In New York City: Pope Francis Vespers Service At St. Patrick's Cathedral, PHOTO FILE NEW YORK DAILY

"In this moment of prayer, I unite myself with you all in prayer to God, our father, all powerful and merciful," the Pope said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "was deeply saddened to learn of the death of more than 700 Hajj pilgrims and of injuries to many others as a result of the deadly incident," according to a U.N. statement.

Ban "extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and expresses his sympathies to all the governments concerned."


CNN

What caused the Hajj stampede? Holly Yan-Profile-Image By Holly Yan, CNN Updated 1:13 AM ET, Sat September 26, 2015


Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede Bodies lie in the street as emergency personnel work. The death toll has been climbing steadily.

(CNN)A day after a deadly crush killed 717 people during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, a critical question remained Friday: What caused the chaotic stampede?

Among the suggested causes:

Pilgrims rushing to complete the rituals,
●the heat,
masses of faithful pushing against each other in opposite directions, even  confusion among the many first-timers on the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and Mina. 
Too many people, too little time

More than 2 million Muslims from around the world are in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims who have the financial and physical ability make at some point in their lives.

The millions of people must perform a litany of rituals in five days, including the symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina, about 2 miles away from the Mecca holy site.

That's where the deadly stampede took place Thursday, the third day of the five-day event. Officials say 717 people died and 900 were injured.

Iran's semiofficial FARS news agency said that 131 Iranians were among the dead. Another 365 remained missing, the state-run IRNA news agency reported, cautioning against assuming they have died.

At least 717 killed in Hajj stampede Sept 26, 2015 02:21 Still rising at 769 as of Sept 27, 2015, 10 am. The dead were from at least 13 nations.

READ MORE...

India's foreign minister reported on Twitter that 14 Indian citizens had died.

Egypt counted 14 deaths and at least 30 people injured.

Somalia reported seven of its citizens were dead; Pakistan, six; Senegal, five; Turkey, four; and Kenya and Algeria, three each.

Two people from Indonesia and two from Nigeria were reported killed, along with one each from the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Saudi Arabia said six members of its civil defense forces were injured in the stampede.

The Muslim Council of Wales said that it had heard from only two of six tour groups that had traveled from south Wales for the Hajj. Together, the groups number about 250 pilgrims, council official Saleem Kidwai said. Families and relatives are "very anxious, very concerned," he said.

Hajj pilgrim Ethar El-Katatney, a journalist and blogger, said people were trying to push their way in opposite directions -- some headed to the site of the stoning, some coming back from their previous ritual.

Council member: Hajj stampede is disappointing tragedy 02:43

"As our group started to head back, taking Road 204, another group, coming from Road 206, crossed our way," said another worshipper, Ahmed Mohammed Amer.

"Heavy pushing ensued. I'm at a loss of words to describe what happened. This massive pushing is what caused the high number of casualties among the pilgrims."

After the stampede, it took hours for rescue workers to try to tend to all those trampled.

"The ambulances, the sirens were overwhelming," El-Katatney said. "For hours and hours, you could hear them constantly."

El-Katatney said the sight of the carnage was simply "horrendous."

"It's literally a pile of bodies of people who ... pushed, they shoved, they panicked, they screamed," she said. "It was hot, someone fell, others trampled and they got stampeded."

Time pressures may have contributed to the disaster, El-Katatney said.

"There's so little time to complete the rituals," she said.

Journalist Khaled Al-Maeena said he believes pilgrims rushing to finish could have been the main reason for the stampede.

"People like to do the first stoning in the morning," he told CNN from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan in Mina, the scene of the fatal stampede.

Extreme heat and exhaustion

The Hajj: Muslims gather for annual pilgrimage 8 photos: The Hajj: Muslims gather for annual pilgrimage The journey is physically grueling enough on its own.

But with temperatures soaring over 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit), anyone who succumbs to the elements might collapse and never recover, El-Katatney said.

"I was out for a couple of hours just kind of taking photos, recording. And just two hours standing in the sun makes you so dizzy and so incredibly faint," she said from Mina.

"But regardless, people were still continuing to ... their ritual, where the stampede happened."

El-Katatney said she talked to some of the men who were caught in the mayhem.

"They told me how if you fell, if you weren't strong enough to withstand the pushing and shoving ... if you fell, you weren't going to get up again."

Inexperience and confusion Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca

Hajj: The pilgrimage to Mecca 01:39 Even though Saudi officials are extremely versed in hosting Hajj crowds, many of the pilgrims are making the journey for the first time and might not be prepared to follow all directions or handle the chaos.

"If any mistake happens -- if a group makes the wrong turn -- that will cause a disaster," Jamal Khashoggi of Saudi Arabia's El Arab TV told CNN. "And that's exactly what happened yesterday."

Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, the Saudi Interior Ministry's security spokesman, hinted that the problem may have stemmed from some pilgrims not following established guidelines, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

And novice pilgrims might try to "go on their own, or try to take a shortcut," Khashoggi said.

The latest calamity also came 13 days after a crane collapse killed more than 100 people at another major Islamic holy site, the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

After a stampede during Hajj killed 363 people in 2006, the Saudi government erected three massive pillars and completed a $1.2 billion, five-story bridge near the site where pilgrims can toss stones.

But after the latest mass tragedy, many are wondering what more can be done to prevent another disaster.

In remarks Thursday, Pope Francis offered his condolences.

"My sentiments of closeness in the face of the tragedy that they suffered in Mecca. In this moment I give them assurances of my prayers. I unite myself with you all in prayer to the Almighty God, all merciful."

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali, Yousuf Basil, Merieme Arif, Faith Karimi, Arwa Damon, Kristi Ramsay and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

------------------------------------------------

WATCH VIDEO:

Hajj tragedy: 717 killed at stampede in Mina

Published on Sep 24, 2015 It's the worst disaster at the Haj pilgrimage in a quarter of a century. At least 717 people were killed and over 860 injured when massive crowds gathered at Mina for the symbolic ritual of "stoning the devil".

 
https://youtu.be/Vwj97TXC0Xw


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