Great masses of Muslim pilgrims were making their way to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 24, 2015. What was supposed to be another stop on their holy tour became a chaotic scene, when a crushing stampede left the pathway covered with piles of white-robed, motionless bodies. It was the deadliest accident during the Hajj pilgrimage in a quarter-century, leaving over 700 dead and more than 850 injured, according to The New York Times. Those killed in the Hajj stampede were from at least 13 nations, reported The New York Times.
More than 2 million Muslims from around the world were in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, a pilgrimage that all Muslims have the obligation to complete if it is financially and physically possible, according to USA Today. The deadly stampede took place during the third day of the five-day event: the symbolic stoning of the devil. Dead bodies were scattered about near a T-shaped intersection of narrow streets in Mina, which is a little over three miles east of Mecca, where many pilgrims stay in air-conditioned tents, reported The Washington Post.
Saudi authorities on the scene of the tragic incident concluded that this was one of the worst disasters to befall the pilgrimage in recent decades. This followed an event that occurred two weeks ago, when a crane collapsed near the main mosque at Mecca, killing more than 100 people.
An investigation is going on to find out who or what is to be blamed for the incident. Some suggested causes include the mass of people rushing to complete rituals, the extreme heat and masses of faithful people pushing against each other in opposite directions. One worshipper told The New York Times, “It’s literally a pile of bodies of people who pushed, they shoved, they panicked, they screamed. It’s hot, someone fell, other trampled, and they got stampeded.”
Muslim pilgrims have little time to complete the intense rituals in various places across the deserts of Saudi Arabia in a five day time period. Saudi officers have blamed the dead for the cause of the stampede; the Saudi health minister, Khalid al-Falih said that the stampede may have been caused by “some pilgrims who did not follow the guidelines and instructions issued by the responsible authorities,” reported The Washington Post.
This recent stampede has renewed criticism that the Saudi Arabian government lacks the management skills to protect one of the world’s largest regular human migrations.
Many mistakes have been made during the Hajj ceremony in recent decades. In the past 20 years, there has been a total of ten incidents with this most recent accident being the worst thus far. Last week’s disaster was the deadliest at Mina since 1990, when 1,426 people died, according to The New York Times.
Editor’s Note: Information from The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today was used in this report.