24 Sep 2015

Hundreds killed in Mecca stampede

11:34 pm on 24 September 2015

At least 717 people taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage have been killed in a stampede near the Islamic holy city of Mecca, officials in Saudi Arabia say.

Saudi civil defence said 863 other people had been injured in the crush caused by large numbers of people pushing at Mina, outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

A Muslim pilgrim near the holy city of Mecca.

A Muslim pilgrim near the holy city of Mecca. Photo: AFP

Rescue operations were under way, it said.

The stampede occurred on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice.

Thursday's disaster was the worst to occur at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel near Mecca.

That incident also occurred on Eid al-Adha, Islam's most important feast and the day of the stoning ritual.

Street 204, where the crush occurred, is one of two main arteries leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat, the site where pilgrims ritually stone the devil by hurling pebbles at three large pillars. In 2006, at least 346 pilgrims died in a stampede at Jamarat.

Efforts to improve safety at Jamarat have included enlarging the three pillars and constructing a three-decker bridge around them to increase the area and number of entry and exit points for pilgrims to perform the ritual.

More than 100,000 police and thousands of video cameras are also deployed to allow groups to be dispersed before they reach dangerous levels of density.

- BBC / Reuters