The health minister in Saudi Arabia announced today that the death toll in Thursday’s stampede during the annual Hajj has changed. Initially placed at 717 dead, the number has risen upward.
“The latest statistics up to this hour reveal 769 dead,” Health Minister Khalid al-Falih told a news conference. “That is an increase of 52 on the previous figures. Those (the 52) are the ones who died in various hospitals since the event.”
He said another 934 are wounded and there may yet be more dead.
It is the worst disaster at the celebrations in 25 years; in 1990 almost 1,500 pilgrims, or worshippers, were crushed to death in a stampede in a tunnel. This year two large groups of worshippers met outside of Mecca in the tent city of Mina and were unable to negotiate around one another and a stampede followed.
Iran lost some 136 citizens in the disaster and said over 300 more Iranians were injured. They have called on “international courts” to lay charges against Saudi Arabia, calling the tragedy not simply incompetence but a “crime.”
The hajj (it literally means to ‘set out for a place’) has been a yearly tradition of worship in the Muslim world for almost 1400 years. Islam requires that all Muslims physically and financially able to carry out a pilgrimage to the Hajj do so at least once during their lifetime.
This year the number of worshippers was somewhere around 2 million; the largest attendance came in 2012 when over 3,100,000 were in attendance.