The Latest: Death toll in Saudi hajj tragedy reaches 719

AP News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2015 4:15 PM
The Latest: Death toll in Saudi hajj tragedy reaches 719

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — The latest developments from a crush of Muslim pilgrims on the third day of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia that killed hundreds of people.

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10:10 p.m.

The Saudi civil defense directorate says that as of late Thursday, the death toll from the horrific crush during the hajj pilgrimage stood at 719, but that the figure probably would rise as bodies continued to be counted and sent to the morgue.

In Iran, state television raised the death toll from among Iranian pilgrims, saying 131 were killed in the crush on the outskirts of Mecca.

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8 p.m.

The Saudi king has expressed his condolences over the horrific stampede during the hajj that killed at least 717 pilgrims near Mecca and pledged a speedy investigation.

King Salman also said Thursday that he has given instructions for a review of "all existing plans and arrangements ... to improve the level of organization and management of the movement" of pilgrims at the hajj.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged Saudi authorities to accept their responsibility for the tragedy, saying it was caused by "mismanagement."

Khamenei offered his condolences to families and relatives of the victims and announced a three-day mourning period. Dozens of Iranian pilgrims perished in the stampede.

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7:10 p.m.

Iran has raised the death toll among its nationals from the stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia to 95 killed, according to state television.

At least 717 people were killed and 863 injured when two waves of pilgrims met while moving in opposite directions on Thursday, the third day of the pilgrimage.

Iran's deputy foreign minister, Hossesin Amir Abdollahian, told the official IRNA news agency that his ministry summoned the Saudi envoy to Tehran for an official protest over what he called the "inadequate performance of Saudi authorities" in the incident.

The semi-official Fars news agency said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of a parliamentary committee for national security, urged other Islamic countries to lodge similar protests.

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7:00 p.m.

The United States has expressed its "deepest condolences" over the hundreds of Muslim pilgrims who died in a "heartbreaking stampede" outside Mecca during the annual hajj.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said "our thoughts are with them and the more than two million people undertaking the Hajj this year. As Muslims around the world continue to celebrate Eid al-Adha, we join you in mourning the tragic loss of these faithful pilgrims."

Iran's official IRNA news agency meanwhile said 89 Iranians were among those killed and 150 were wounded, updating an earlier toll.

Saudi authorities say at least 717 people were killed when two waves of pilgrims met while moving in opposite directions.

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6:30 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry says the crush of Muslim pilgrims that killed more than 700 people outside Mecca appears to have been caused by two waves of pilgrims meeting at an intersection.

Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said high temperatures and the fatigue of the pilgrims might also have been factors in Thursday's disaster, the deadliest event to afflict the hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades.

He says there is no indication that authorities are to blame for the event, saying "unfortunately, these incidents happen in a moment."

Al-Turki says King Salman has ordered the creation of committee to investigate the incident.

Some 2 million people take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which all able-bodied Muslims are required to undertake at least once in their lives.

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6:00 p.m.

Two survivors interviewed by The Associated Press say the crush of Muslim pilgrims that killed more than 700 people outside Mecca began when two waves of pilgrims going in opposite directions collided.

Egyptian pilgrim Abdullah Lotfy, 44, said "I saw someone trip over someone in a wheelchair and several people tripping over him. People were climbing over one another just to breathe."

Lotfy says the collision should never have happened, saying "there was no preparation" on the part of Saudi authorities.

Ismail Hamba, 58, from Nigeria, recalled falling down and then being trampled, saying "it was really, really terrible."

Saudi authorities say the incident killed 717 pilgrims and injured another 805, making it the deadliest disaster to afflict the annual hajj pilgrimage since 1990.

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4:00 p.m.

The head of Iran's hajj organization blames Saudi "mismanagement" for a crush of pilgrims outside Mecca that killed hundreds of people, including 41 Iranian pilgrims.

Saeed Ohadi told state TV by phone from Saudi Arabia that the incident might have been caused by the closure of a road. State TV says another 60 Iranian pilgrims were wounded in the incident.

Saudi authorities say at least 717 people were killed and at least 805 were injured.

Thursday's disaster was the deadliest such incident on the annual hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades, and comes nearly two weeks after a crane collapsed in Mecca, killing 100 people.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fiercely divided on a host of regional conflicts, and back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen.

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3:45 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate says 717 people were killed in a crush of Muslim pilgrims near the holy city of Mecca.

Thursday's disaster was the deadliest such incident on the annual hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades, and comes nearly two weeks after a crane collapsed in Mecca, killing 100 people.

The crush happened in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca that has been the site of past hajj stampedes.

Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone columns. It also houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.

The civil defense directorate says at least 805 other pilgrims were injured.

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3:40 p.m.

Saudi authorities say 717 people were killed in crush of Muslim pilgrims near holy city of Mecca.

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2:40 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate says at least 453 people were killed in a stampede on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca during the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Thursday's crush happened in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from Mecca that has been the site of hajj stampedes in years past.

Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone columns.

The Saudi civil defense directorate says the stampede occurred in a morning surge of pilgrims at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns. It says at least 719 other pilgrims were injured in the stampede.

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2:26 p.m.

Saudi authorities say death toll from stampede at hajj pilgrimage rises to 453.

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12:50 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate says the death toll from a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage has risen to at least 310 people.

The directorate says the victims in Thursday's stampede are of different nationalities, without providing details. It previously said at least 450 pilgrims were injured.

The stampede happened in Mina, on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca. Some 2 million people are taking part in this year's hajj pilgrimage, which began Tuesday.

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12:45 p.m.

Saudi authorities say the death toll from the stampede on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca has risen to 310.

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12:00 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate says the death toll from a stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage has risen to at least 220 people killed. The directorate says at least 450 other pilgrims were injured in Thursday's stampede, which took place in Mina, on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca. Some 2 million people are taking part in this year's hajj pilgrimage, which began Tuesday