2015 Mina stampede

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2015 Mina disaster
The way to Jamarat Bridge 3.JPG

The way to Jamaraat Bridge (2011)
Time 09:00 AST (UTC+03:00)
Date 24 September 2015
Location Mina, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Coordinates 21°24′59.5″N39°53′04.9″E
Cause Disputed, under investigation
Deaths at least 2,136 (Saudi official is 769)
Non-fatal injuries at least 108 (Saudi official is 934)
Missing 1,036

On 24 September 2015, a crowd collapse caused the deaths of at least 2,136 people who were suffocated or crushed during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Mecca.[1][2][3][4] The Mina crush now stands as the deadliest Hajj disaster in history,[1][4] and based on the total of the individual national reports cited in the Nationalities of victims table, may have been the deadliest crowd crush disaster to occur in modern times. The official government death toll in Saudi Arabia, where newspapers, broadcast media, and the Internetare heavily censored, has remained unchanged since two days after the event, with at least 769 reported killed and 934 others injured. However, outside sources have estimated the death toll to be much higher.[5][6][7][8] On 14 October 2015, the Associated Press listed a death toll of at least 1,621,[4] while Agence France-Presse cites a slightly higher figure of at least 1,753 killed.[9] Some 1,036 pilgrims remain missing, according to reports compiled from their home countries.[citation needed]

The incident happened in Mina at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 leading up to Jamaraat Bridge.[10] The cause of the disaster is disputed.[11][12] The Mina disaster has inflamed tensions between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, which were already raised due to the wider turmoil in the Middle East, such as the Syrian Civil War and Yemeni Civil War.[13][14][15] In a press conference held on the day of the incident, spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Interior Mansour Al-Turki attempted to address most issues regarding the incident. He said that an investigation was ongoing and that the exact cause of the overcrowding that led to the deadly stampede on Mina Street 204 is yet to be ascertained.[16]

Intersection of streets 204 and 223 where the incident happened.

Background[edit]

Tent City at Mina in 2009

Main article: Hajj

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage in Mecca prescribed as a duty for Muslims to undertake at least once in their lifetime if they can afford to do so physically and financially.[17][18] As traditionally performed, it consists of a series of rites including the Stoning of the Devil (Arabic:رمي الجمراتramī aj-jamarāt)[19][20] which takes place at the Jamaraat Bridge in Mina, a district a few miles east of Mecca. The Jamaraat Bridge is a pedestrian bridge from which pilgrims can throw pebbles at the three jamrah pillars. The stoning ritual is the last major ritual and is often regarded as the most dangerous part of the Hajj, with its large crowds, confined spaces, and tight scheduling. A number of crowd crush tragedies have occurred in the past,[21] with 1,426 people being suffocated and trampled to death in a 1990 tunnel tragedy, and at least 701 people killed in crowd crushes between 1991 and 2005.[22]

346 people were killed in a similar Jamaraat incident in 2006, which prompted the Saudi government to improve the infrastructure of the city and its procession routes.[2] The Saudi Arabian government has been spending $60 billion to expand the Grand Mosque which houses the Kaaba, and has deployed 100,000 security forces and 5,000 CCTV cameras to monitor the crowds.[23]

The 2015 Hajj occurred among such obstacles as regional turmoil, the hottest temperatures in Mecca in 20 years, “all-time high” tensions between Sunnis and Shias andMERS.[24]

The disaster[edit]

Nationalities of victims
Nationality Deceased Injured Missing Ref.
 Afghanistan 2 8 6 [25]
 Algeria 33 7 15 [26]
 Bangladesh 137 0 53 [27]
 Benin 52 2 41 [28]
 Burkina Faso 22 0 7 [29]
 Burundi 1 0 6 [30]
 Cameroon 76 0 30 [31]
 Chad 52 0 50 [32]
 China 4 0 0 [33]
 Djibouti 2 0 3 [34]
 Egypt 182 10 53 [35][36]
 Ethiopia 47 2 0 [37]
 Gambia 0 0 2 [38]
 Ghana 12 6 26 [39]
 India 114 21 10 [40]
 Indonesia 127 5 5 [41][42]
 Iran 464 0 36 [43][44]
 Iraq 1 0 0 [45]
 Ivory Coast 52 13 7 [46]
 Jordan 2 0 1 [47]
 Kenya 10 0 0 [48][49]
 Lebanon 0 1 1 [50]
 Libya 10 0 7 [51]
 Malaysia 1 0 0 [52]
 Mali 197 7 168 [53]
 Mauritius 5 0 0 [54]
 Morocco 36 5 3 [55]
 Myanmar 6 0 5 [56]
 Netherlands 1 0 0 [57]
 Niger 72 11 44 [58]
 Nigeria 173 6 137 [59]
 Oman 1 0 0 [60]
 Pakistan 102 2 15 [61][62]
 Philippines 1 0 0 [63]
 Senegal 61 2 4 [64]
 Somalia 8 0 0 [57]
 Sri Lanka 1 0 1 [65]
 Sudan 30 0 2 [66]
 Tanzania 22 0 43 [67]
 Tunisia 7 0 4 [68]
 Turkey 7 0 1 [69][70]
 Uganda 2 0 250 [71][72][73]
 United Kingdom 1 0 0 [74]
Countries Total 2,136 108 1,036
Saudi Arabia Official 769 934 [75]

Nationalities of victims of 2015 Mina stampede including deceased, injured and missing.

Deceased dignitaries
Nationality Name Ref.
 Nigeria Alhaji Abbas Ibrahim Sambo
Justice Abdulkadir Jega
Justice Musa Hassan Alkali
Engr Bello Gidan Hamma
Alhaji Shehu Kontagora
Abdullahi T. Yeldu
[76][77][78]
 Pakistan Assad Murtaza Gilani [79]
 Iran Mohammad Rahim Aghaei Poor
Ghazanfar Roknabadi
[80][81]
 Senegal Mother of Mame Biram Diouf
Abdoulaye Diaw
[82][83]
 Sudan Major General Talaat Abdel-Razeq [84]
 Algeria Husband of Nouara Saadia [85]

According to a statement by the Saudi civil defence directorate, the stampede occurred Thursday 24 September 2015 at 09:00 Mecca time (06:00 UTC) at the junction between street 204 and 223 as pilgrims were en route to the Jamaraat Bridge. The Saudi Interior Ministry stated that the stampede was triggered when two large groups of pilgrims intersected from different directions onto the same street.[2] The area was not previously identified as a dangerous bottleneck.[86] The junction lay between two pilgrim camp sites.[87] The International Business Times and the Daily Mail reported that the governor of Mecca Province and Saudi Arabia’s head of the central Hajj committee, Prince Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud, blamed the crush outside the holy city on “some pilgrims with African nationalities”;[88][89] this caused some African leaders to lash out in response.[90]

Press TV reported that an Iranian survivor of 24 September incident in Mina, whose name was not revealed, said only a handful of Saudi soldiers assisted those being trampled in the crush. “When I returned to the disaster point to help, Saudi soldiers prevented me from entering the area. This, as only a handful of Saudi soldiers were helping the victims, while a large number of them were standing by idly and looking,” the man told Press TV. A number of other survivors have also shared similar accounts, saying that mismanagement by the Saudi authorities and a poor rescue response complicated the situation.[91]

In a press conference held the day of the incident, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior Mansour Al-Turki attempted to address the incident. He said that an investigation was ongoing, that the exact causes for crowding that led to the deadly stampede on Mina Street 204 are yet to be ascertained.[16] He explained that “Street number 204 is a road leading from the camps to the Jamarat Bridge. What happened was that a group of pilgrims on buses were allowed to descend onto the pathways that lead to the Jamarat Bridge at a time that wasn’t allocated to them,” Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent in Mina, Saad Al-Matrafi said. “As they neared the area, they converged with an existing group of people who were already in the area, which pushed the area to over capacity.” The spokesman also mentioned that most diplomatic convoys take place in the south of Mina and in underground tunnels, while the incident took place in the north. He added that news regarding the incident should be sought from official sources, pointing out that most controversial news regarding the unfortunate incident are coming from sources at conflict with the Saudi Government.[92][93][94]

One day after the Mina crush tragedy,[95] Saudi media publicized a statement by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, exonerating Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef (known as “MBN”) from responsibility for the disaster, as his Interior Minister title holds him accountable for safety issues at the Mecca shrine. The Grand Mufti’s statement, which characterized the incident as “beyond human control”, “inevitable”, and attributable to “fate”,[95] immunized MBN against possible domestic criticism.[96]

Casualties[edit]

The Saudi Civil Defence directorate stated that casualties were of multiple nationalities and announced the deployment of 4,000 personnel to the stampede site alongside 220 emergency response units.[87] Pilgrims were redirected away from the stampede site.[92] The Saudi Red Crescent Authority was also mobilised and the injured are being treated at four hospitals.[2]

Medics at Mina’s emergency hospital said they alone received almost 700 people on the day of the incident, suggesting the overall death toll could grow. The eight hospitals around the Hajj landmarks and the six main hospitals in the city of Mecca were operating at full capacity after the stampede, medics said.[97]

Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported that according to Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation more than 2,000 people were killed and 2,000 more injured in the stampede.[98][99] Also on 29 September 2015 Fars News referring to Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organisation estimated that there were 2,700 people killed.[7][100][101] Later reports by Iranian sources put the death toll at over 4,000. Press TV reported on 29 September that, “according to some reports,” Saudi Vice Minister of Health Hamad bin Muhammad Al-Duweila had said the death toll in the tragedy had reached 4,173. However, the Saudi Health Ministry later denied the reports.[102][103]

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs said that 1,250 victims of the Mina tragedy could not be identified.[104] This is almost equal to the pilgrims reported missing by different nations. According to one member of the Mauritian Hajj Mission, the stampede’s death toll may exceed 3000.[105]

The Saudi Arabia Health Ministry completed the DNA profiling of all unidentified pilgrims who were killed or injured in the stampede.[106] DNA samples of the next of kin of Hajj stampede victims were collected at Al-Nour Specialist Hospital, Mecca.[107]

Dead[edit]

  • Ghazanfar Roknabadi, an Iranian diplomat, who served as Iranian ambassador to Lebanon from 2010 to 2014, attended the Hajj in 2015. He is believed to have died during the incident.[81] Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, on 28 September 2015, referring to Saudi media reports that say they have no official record of the entry of Ghazanfar Asl Roknabadi into the kingdom, described the reports as “incorrect” and “hasty”, saying the ministry has documents showing that Riyadh had approved an ordinary Hajj visa for the dead diplomat.[108] Iranian media also released footage on 29 September, showing Roknabadi’s presence in Mina.[109] The passport showing his entrance into Saudi Arabia was also released by Iranian media.[110]
  • Adeola Maurufudeen Adefolabi, from Lagos, Nigeria, was one term honourable member representing Ifako Ijaiye in the lower chamber of the National Assembly and former chairman of Ifako Ijaiye and Ojokoro Local Government Areas.[111][112]
  • Tijani El-Miskin was a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Maiduguri and a former head of special training course for the students of Arabic studies at the University of Maiduguri in Gamboru. He also was the Chairman of the Borno State Pilgrims Board.[113]
  • Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf was the first female editor from the northern part of Nigeria. She studied political science in Nigeria and the USA and journalism in Russia. After that Bilkisu Yusuf pursued successful career in journalism in Nigeria, working for Daily Trust and Leadership newspapers and several local editions in Kano and Kaduna states.[113]

Missing[edit]

  • Mufti Mohammed Farooq, a prominent Indian Islamic scholar who was to perform Hajj, has been missing since the stampede. Farooq, a senior religious scholar, is a prolific writer and has authored over 50 books on a range of subjects, including Hadith and Fiqh, in Urdu and Hindi, reports said. He is the founder and principal of Jamia Mahmoodia in Meerut which has been running for over 25 years and has over 700 students.[114]

Eyewitness accounts[edit]

Early eyewitnesses accounts stated that the crush was caused by the closure of eastern part of Street 206, which forced pilgrims travel up Street 223, colliding with a mass of people moving the opposite direction on Street 204.[115]

Alhaji Samaila Dabai Yombe, Deputy Governor of the Nigerian state of Kebbi, who was present at the incident, stated that the deaths happened due to a blockage of the route to Jamaraat Bridge. “What actually happened was that all the pilgrims scheduled to throw Jamrat at that time were channeled to one particular street. At a time we got to a certain point around 8:00am, a military vehicle was set across to create a barrier and then some of the Saudi soldiers were standing by, suggesting that you cannot go beyond that point. […] About 5,000 people coming from the same direction were not aware of the road block in front, which resulted to a tight and stationary human traffic, which made it very difficult for us to even stand. So, we continued to squat to make room for fresh air while the temperature was about 47 degrees celsius. […] Pilgrims, in efforts to get fresh air, attempted to scale fences of tents on both sides of the road. Very few succeeded, while most people just succumb to the situation. It was at this juncture that we saw dead bodies piling up around us”.[116]

Ishaq Akintola, a Nigerian Professor of Islamic eschatology, gave an eyewitness account of the disaster: “on that fateful day, we found out that some of those who had thrown their own stones made a U-turn instead of moving ahead to take a detour. They came through the route meant for entrance and not exit. They came towards us. They were in a very large group and the road was not spacious enough to allow a free flow of those of us coming to throw stones at the Devil and those who had stoned the Devil. The road could not take those coming and those going. And I discovered that most of those who took the wrong way were Egyptians”.[117]

Reactions[edit]

Governments[edit]

 Algeria

Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments, Mohamed Aissa, said “We do not doubt the reliability of the security system set up by the Saudi government. We do not deny, either, that the Saudi kingdom is the sole organizer of the hajj, for several years. However, we will require that the whole matter be clarified and that those responsible for this disaster are known and sanctioned. We will demand compensation for the families of the deceased and for the injured”.[118]

 Bangladesh

Religious Affairs Secretary Chowdhury Md Babul Hassan came down heavily upon the Saudi government for its “disrespectful handling” of the bodies after the 24 September incident at Mina. “The way the Saudi security officials removed the bodies from the site seemed as if they were dumping garbage.” “The stampede has laid bare the Saudi authorities’ mismanagements,” he said.[119]

 Indonesia

  • Indonesian officials criticized Saudi Arabia’s response to the disaster, saying authorities in the kingdom prevented their diplomats from seeing initial data and blocked their immediate access to the dead.[120]
  • Indonesia officially offered assistance to help Saudi Arabia in identifying bodies of hundreds of hajj pilgrims killed in Thursday’s stampede during the conduction of a hajj procession in Mina, a statement released by Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry.[121]

 Iran

  • Ali Khamenei, Supreme leader of Islamic Republic of Iran, declared three days of national mourning in Iran. “The Saudi government is obligated to shoulder its heavy responsibility in this bitter incident and meet its obligations in compliance with the rule of righteousness and fairness. Mismanagement and improper measures that were behind this tragedy should not be overlooked,” Khamenei said.[122] He threatened Saudi Arabia with a “tough and harsh” response after complaining that “the bodies of Hajj stampede victims are not being repatriated swiftly”.[123] Ayatollah Mohammed Emami-Kashani, leading the main weekly Muslim prayers in Tehran said “Saudi Arabia is incapable of organising the pilgrimage. The running of the Hajj must be handed over to Islamic states.”[124]
  • Hassan Rouhani, the President of Iran, in his address to the seventieth UN General Assembly said the feelings of millions of Muslims being hurt by the incident amounts to spiritual loss which cannot be compensated for simply by material means. “The public opinion demands that Saudi authorities discharge, without delay, their international responsibility in providing immediate consular access for the quick identification and returning of the bodies [of the deceased],” said the Iranian president. He further added that “It is also required that the necessary conditions be provided for [conducting] an independent and precise inquiry into the causes of the [Mina] disaster and [working out] methods for preventing a repeat of that in the future.”[125]

Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tehran guarded by Iranian police after crisis.

  • Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s chargé d’affaires,[126] and dispatched a high-ranking delegation from the Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Red Crescent, headed by Hassan Ghashghavi, to investigate the situation.[127] Hossein Amirabdollahian, Deputy of Foreign Affairs Minister, accused Saudi officials of tactlessness over the lack of safety measures at the Hajj[128] and said “We can in no way be indifferent to this irresponsible behaviour of Saudi Arabia. This will be dealt with through diplomatic channels.”[129]
  • The head of Iran’s Hajj organisation, Said Ohadi, accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident saying that “Today’s incident shows mismanagement and lack of serious attention to the safety of pilgrims. There is no other explanation. The Saudi officials should be held accountable.”[129]
  • Khamenei’s representative on Hajj affairs, Seyed Ali Ghaziaskar, said: “Saudi officials do not let our medical team and doctors to reach the affected areas and hospitals to help.”[130]
  • Thousands of people marched in Tehran to protest at Saudi Arabia’s handling of the hajj pilgrimage. The Iranian demonstrators carried black banners and chanted “death to Al Saud” (مرگ بر آل سعود), the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia.[57]
  • Iran also vowed to take international legal action against Saudi Arabia’s rulers over the stampede. Iran’s State Prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi said “Under international law, this incident is absolutely subject to prosecution. The Al-Saud must be responsive. They have to know that we will pursue the trial of Al-Saud for the crime they have committed against the hajj pilgrims through international courts and organizations.”[131] Later, Kazem Qaribabadi, deputy chief of Iran’s Human Rights staff in international affairs, said that Iran cannot pursue the case according to the dispute resolution convention of 1963 because Saudi Arabia is not a member to that convention. Accordingly, he said, Iran could not refer the case to the International Court of Justice; neither could it bring the case to the ICC, because not only Iran and Saudi Arabia are not members to it, but the kind of incident does not qualify for address by the ICC.[132]

 Lebanon

Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah said that the Saudi regime holds the full responsibility for the Mina incident as it was the sole manager of the pilgrimage and it has always refused to share this responsibility with anyone else. He stressed that blaming the pilgrims for this tragedy was a simplification of things, and that the consequent accidents in the pilgrimage that take place every year indicate that there is a major problem in Saudi’s management.[133] He further said Saudi Arabia should allow Muslim countries to help the kingdom run the Hajj pilgrimage rituals, emphasising the need for the formation of a Muslim committee to “supervise the management” of the annual Islamic event. He also added that a group of Muslim countries should be formed to probe the fatal stampede during Hajj rites.[134]

 Nigeria

  • The Nigerian government has dismissed remarks by the Saudi health minister blaming pilgrims for “not following instructions.”[135]
  • Abdullahi Mukhtar, the Chairman of National Hajj Commission of Nigeria said, “It was not fair for anyone to blame Africans participating at the pilgrimage for the fatal incident” and called on the Saudi authority to include Nigeria in a government investigation into the incident.[136]
  • Nigeria’s Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II said he would advise Nigerians not to participate in the Stoning of the Devil unless they are assigned quarters close to the Jamarāt pillars. Citing Qur’anic verses and teachings of Muhammad, Sanusi stated that omitting the Stoning of the Devil rite does not lessen the validty of the Hajj pilgrimage. Further explaining his reasoning, Sanusi said, “During the era of Prophet Muhammad, he permitted pilgrims who came on camels to stay in Makkah after Arafat, instead of staying in Mina and sleeping at Muzdalifa. So, if the Prophet can give such grace to some people, just to protect their animals, why didn’t our scholars educate our people properly to avoid this untoward hardship and death” and that “If one deliberately refuses to even perform the stoning of the devil ritual, all he needs to do is just to slaughter a ram in order to make up for the loss. So, if this is the situation, why do we go and suffer and die instead of sacrificing a ram?”[137][138][139]
  • Members of the Nigerian House of Representatives condemned stampede in Mecca during which several lives were lost. The House also demanded for the immediate take-over of the investigation of the incident by international investigators since there were still conflicting reports as to the cause of the incident. It stated that this became necessary in order to prevent future occurrence. During the tragedy, 54 Nigerians lost their lives. One member of the House, Honourable Igbokwue, pointed out that if nothing concrete was done to establish the cause of the stampede, it would definitely happen again.[140]
  • The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, urged Saudi authorities to henceforth provide improved safety measures during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.[141]

 Pakistan

  • The New York Times reported that, amid public criticism of the Saudi and Pakistani governments for weaknesses in the official response to the tragedy, the Pakistani government has directed private television networks to “avoid criticizing the Saudis in news programs and talk shows.” Pakistani lawmaker Tariq Fazal Chaudhry has defended his government’s position, saying the directive was meant to prevent broadcasts from “giving the tragedy a sectarian color.”[142]
  • Opposition demonstrated a walk-out from the Pakistani Senate against the government’s attitude towards Mina stampede. Senator Aitzaz Ahsan said that the ruling party is trying to forget the issue by suppressing it. He said that the government has left Pakistani pilgrims alone in tough times and is trying to cover the situation thoughPakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). The Deputy Chairman said that the nation should wait for investigative report by Saudi Arabia. There must not be any politics over Mina stampede, he added.[143]

 Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has accused Iran of “playing politics” with the disaster and called on the Islamic Republic to await the outcome of an investigation ordered by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.[144] Saudi officials have blamed pilgrims for the stampede, suggesting some had “moved without following instructions by the relevant authorities”.[citation needed]
  • The governor of the Makkah Region and head of the Central Hajj Committee Prince Khaled al-Faisal blamed the stampede on “some pilgrims from African nationalities.”[87] The Saudi health minister Khalid A. Al-Falih stated that the stampede occurred due to pilgrims failing to follow official directions, adding that timetables established by authorities were ignored.[2] However, witnesses dispute this, according to The Guardian.[145]
  • King Salman removed three high-level officials from their posts following the stampede.[146]
  • The Saudi government allegedly beheaded the 28 people found responsible for the stampede. However, the source also mentions “some feel Saudi Arabia is only trying to save face by using criminals who are already imprisoned” for the beheadings.[147][148]

 Senegal

In steering committee, the Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS) called for the resignation of the government led by Dionne Muhammad Abdallah Boun. Liberals believed that the state authorities have not been up in the “management” of Mina stampede.[149]

 Syria

State-controlled news agency Syrian Arab News Agency said, “The stampede raised questions about the Saudi government’s attention to pilgrims’ safety despite billions of dollars that Saudi authorities claim to spend to improve Hajj.”[150]

 Turkey

  • Mehmet Görmez, the head of Presidency of Religious Affairs blamed serious management issues at Mecca,[151] saying, “There was serious negligence by authorities in directing the crowd.”[152]
  • AKP Deputy Chair Mehmet Ali Şahin also criticised the Saudi organisation, and has claimed that Turkey could do a better job than Saudi Arabia at organising the Hajj pilgrimage, calling for Turkey to be entrusted with its management.[153] However, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended the Saudi government saying, “I do not sympathise with the hostile statements against Saudi Arabia.”[154] He asserted, “It is not right to have the approach of putting the blame on Saudi Arabia. On the contrary, during the Hajj and Umrah I participated in, I came to observe closely the level of sensibility in the organization work conducted there. Therefore I cannot say ‘the organization is wrong’.”[155]

Non-governmental[edit]

  • Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh, Saudi Arabia’s top religious leader (appointed to his position by King Fahd in 1999), told Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior, Muhammad bin Nayef, “You are not responsible for what happened. As for the things that humans cannot control, you are not blamed for them. Fate and destiny are inevitable”.[156][95]
  • Irfan al-Alawi, the executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, said that “the disaster was a result of poor management by the government, given the number of past disasters.”[157]
  • Madawi al-Rasheed, a Saudi-Arabian anthropologist and visiting professor at the London School of Economics, said: “There is no accountability. It’s shocking that almost every year there is some kind of death toll. The renovation and expansion are done under the pretext of creating more space for Muslim pilgrims, but it masks land grabs and vast amounts of money being made by the princes and by other Saudis. Officials in the kingdom had avoided responsibility in part by citing the Islamic doctrine that anyone who dies during the pilgrimage goes to heaven.”[157]
  • Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi analyst and current director of the Washington, DC-based Institute for Gulf Affairs think tank blamed the Saudi government’s “mismanagement” of the Hajj, saying that “the Ministry of Interior’s use of soldiers who have no clue or expertise in managing crowds was the real cause of stampedes. This really has to do with the failure of the Saudi government in organizing this Hajj, and they need to get help from around the world.”[158]
  • Saeed al-Shehabi, a London-based political activist in an interview with Iranian-based television Press TV said that, “In Saudi Arabia; it is good the Saudis are good at war, are good at financing terrorism and extremism, they are bombing Yemen days and nights, yet they cannot manage this annual festival where Muslims are expected to exercise their worship in peace and in harmony and also to discuss their own lively matters that concern Muslims.”[159]
  • Salman al-Ouda, a Saudi cleric said that “Riyadh regime should be held accountable for the crush, adding that Saudi rulers cannot evade their responsibility by labeling the tragedy as an act of God.” He called on media outlets to cover the incident with full transparency.[160]
  • Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a Ugandan British author and journalist, seized upon the incident to blast Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations and funding violent Wahhabism in the world. She criticized the Saudi government for blaming the victims in the incident and added “Mecca was once a place of simplicity and spirituality. Today the avaricious Saudis have bulldozed historical sites and turned it into the Las Vegas of Islam – with hotels, skyscrapers and malls to spend, spend, spend. The poor can no longer afford to go there. Numbers should be controlled to ensure safety – but that would be ruinous for profits.” She also added that Western leaders are not willing to confront Saudi Arabia because of oil and profits made by arm sales.[161]
  • It was reported that an unnamed prince and grandson of Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, founder of Saudi Arabia, citing unrest among the royal family, plummeting oil prices and criticism of Saudi’s management of Mecca days after a stampede during Hajj claimed 1,100 lives, said there was a need for a change in leadership. The prince explained a double tragedy in Mecca – the collapse of a crane that killed more than 100, followed by a stampede last week that killed 1,100 – has raised questions not just about social issues, but also about royal stewardship of the holiest site in Islam. “The public are also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders,” the prince added. “They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.”[162] However, the authenticity of the grandson and his letter has been questioned.[163]
  • Abbass Schumann, the Undersecretary of Al-Azhar, Egypt, said that allegations of negligence concerning Saudi’s administration and handling of the hajj are “unacceptable”. Schumann called for patience pending the conclusion of the investigation by Saudi Arabia, and cautioned against rushing to judgment.[164]
  • Egyptian physician and feminist writer Nawal El Saadawi said “They talk about changing the way [the hajj] is administered, about making people travel in smaller groups. What they don’t say is that the crush happened because these people were fighting to stone the devil. Why do they need to stone the devil? Why do they need to kiss that black stone? But no one will say this. The media will not print it. What is it about, this reluctance to criticise religion? …This refusal to criticise religion… is not liberalism. This is censorship”.[165]
  • Vijay Prashad, Northampton-based journalist and historian, said that survivors told journalists that Saudi’s response to the tragedy was “too little, too late,” stressing that Saudi rescuers arrived almost two hours after the incident. …much of Mecca, like Saudi Arabia in general, is designed for the VIP and the VVIP. Embarrassingly, Riyadh provides little if any care to ordinary people and it is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has demonstrated disdain for the lives of Muslims. Instead of pouring money into the war, Riyadh should use its wealth to make the Hajj safe not only for the VIPs, but for millions of ordinary Muslims.[166]
  • Citing the rumors about the block, Basma Attasi, the reporter from Al Jazeera who was present in the ritual, explained “For those who know the area where the stampede occurred, this report seems far from reality. The relatively humble area is far from the entrance to Mina and houses ordinary pilgrims arriving from outside of Saudi Arabia. Important personalities stay in areas close to the entrance and their convoys are assigned separate tunnels and roads to facilitate their movement.”[97]
  • Keith Still, Professor of Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan University in Britain, who helped redesign the Jamarat (the pillars representing the devil stoned by pilgrims) after a disaster in 2004, said there was criticism at the time that the upgrades at the Jamarat had not been extended to other areas. He said “For complex systems that flow in and out, if you make one change along the way it can have knock-on and ripple effects elsewhere. Change any one part of system with 3 million people, and there’s a danger of an accident like this.”[86]
  • Dr. Mohammed Ajmal, an emergency medicine physician who in 2008 was in charge of one of the Indian Medical Centres in Saudi Arabia deputed by the government of India, in his article quotes a culmination of various factors leading to the stampede. He cites the inherent structural design flaws in Mina, which prevent emergency medical care to reach the accident site. Compression Asphyxia which is a cause of death in majority of stampede deaths, can occur with 10 minutes, in which time any medical care cannot be given to the victims at all. Another point highlighted is the safe and better facilities available to the rich in Mina and how tents reserved for “rich” have not seen any stampede till now.”[167]

Description as “stampede”[edit]

See also: Stampede

Although many Western news services followed the precedent of Saudi Arabia media, who initially characterized the event as a “stampede”, the term has been rejected by some academic experts who study crowd movements and crushing disasters.[22] “The rhetoric of ‘stampede’ is often used to imply that the crowd is animalistic or mindless, but from a crowd psychology point of view, I’m sure that there was a logical explanation for the crush”, University of Sussex crowd behavioral expert Anne Templeton told Newsweek. “The density of the Hajj has been shown to reach up to 6–8 people per square meter, so I would be very surprised if a stampede (implying people running mindlessly) could occur in the first place.”[168] The Mina disaster is better understood as a “progressive crowd collapse”:[22][168] beginning at densities of about six[22] to seven[169] persons per square meter, individuals are pressed so closely against each other they are unable to move as individuals, and shockwaves can travel through a crowd which, at such densities, behaves somewhat like a fluid.[169] If a single person falls, or other people reach down to help, waves of bodies can be involuntarily precipitated forward into the open space.[22] One such shockwave can create other openings in the crowd nearby, precipitating further crushing.[22] Unable to draw breath, individuals in a crowd can also be crushed while standing.[169]Journalistic misuse of the term “stampede”, says Edwin Galea of the University of Greenwich, is the result of “pure ignorance and laziness … it gives the impression that it was a mindless crowd only caring about themselves, and they were prepared to crush people.”[22] In reality, individuals are directly crushed by others nearby who have no choice, and those who can choose are too distant from the epicenter to be aware of what is happening.[22] According to experts, true “stampedes” (and “panics”) rarely occur except when a crowd is fleeing in fear, such as from a fire,[169] and rarely does trampling by other human beings in such “stampede” conditions result in fatal injuries.[22]

“If you look at the analysis, I’ve not seen any instances of the cause of mass fatalities being a stampede,” says Keith Still, professor of crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan University. “People don’t die because they panic. They panic because they are dying.”[22]

See also

Mecca crane collapse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mecca crane collapse
Mataaf expansion 2014.jpg

Construction at the Masjid al-Haram.
Time 17:10 AST (UTC+03:00)[1][2]
Date 11 September 2015
Location Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Coordinates 21.4225°N 39.8262°ECoordinates: 21.4225°N 39.8262°E
Cause Crane collapse
Deaths 111[3][4]
Non-fatal injuries 394[3]

On 11 September 2015, a crawler crane toppled over onto the Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 111 people were killed and 394 injured.[3][4][5][6] The city was preparing for the Hajj pilgrimage.[7][8][9]

The victims were of twelve different nationalities, with the greatest contingents of fatalities being twenty-five Bangladeshis and twenty-three Egyptians. Of the injured, the most represented nationalities were 51 Pakistanis and 42 Indonesians.[10][11][12][13][14][15]The accident has been cited as the deadliest crane collapse in modern history, with the previous most deadly incident being thecollapse of a construction crane in New York City in 2008, killing seven people.

Background[edit]

Main article: Masjid al-Haram

The Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba, in the city of Mecca. Muslims face in the direction of the Kaaba while performing obligatory daily prayers. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so, including circumambulation of the Kaaba.[5]

There have been many major incidents during the Hajj over the years, causing the loss of thousands of lives.[17] To prevent stampedes and accommodate more pilgrims each year during the Hajj season, Saudi authorities undertook a major construction project to expand the mosque compound in recent years.[18] At the time of the incident the Saudi authorities were preparing for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to arrive in the city for the Hajj due to begin on 22 September 2015.[6][18] A Saudi official stated that Hajj would continue despite the collapse.[19]

Accident[edit]

Nationalities of victims
Nationality Killed Injured Ref.
 Bangladesh 25 [20]
 Egypt 23 [20]
 Pakistan 15 51 [14][20]
 Indonesia 11 42 [21]
 India 11 15 [10][15]
 Turkey 8 21 [22][23]
 Malaysia 6 10 [11][20]
 Nigeria 6 [24]
 United Kingdom 2 3 [15][25]
 Iran 11 32 [10][20][26]
 Algeria 1 [20]
 Afghanistan 1 [20]
Total 111[note 1] 394 [3][4]

The Saudi Civil Defence authority confirmed that a crane collapsed through the ceiling of the mosque during strong winds created by a powerful storm. The collapse killed at least 111 people,[27][4] injured 394, and trapped many pilgrims under the debris.[3][6][28][29][30]

The incident reportedly occurred shortly before 5:20 p.m. on Friday, one of the busiest times of the week. The crane fell into the east side of the mosque, with its boom crashing through the roof.[5] One witness reported that the crane fell on the third floor above Al-Safa and Al-Marwah at 5:45 p.m. local time.[31]

There were strong sand storms in the region over the preceding week. The authority said an hour before the disaster that Mecca was experiencing medium to heavy rains. There were also reports of winds of more than 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). However, the exact cause of the crane collapse was not confirmed.[32]

Following the accident the governor of Mecca, Prince Khaled Al Faisal, ordered an investigation into the incident. Search and rescue teams and medical workers from the Saudi Red Crescent were sent to the site. After visiting the site on 13 September 2015, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud vowed that the accident will be investigated and the results will be made public.[33][34] Pictures and video circulating on social media showed many dead and wounded amidst severe damage to the building.[6]

After receiving the report on the investigation into the incident, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ordered on September 15, only four days after the incident, that top officials of the Saudi Binladin Group be banned from traveling outside the kingdom and the group is also suspended from taking new projects.[35][36] The report pinned the blame for the accident partially on the construction company. A royal court announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the king was reviewing the report of the Accident Investigation Committee, which suggested negligence on the part of the Saudi Binladin Group, but concluded that it found an “absence of criminal suspicion”. The report said “the main reason for the accident is the strong winds while the crane was in a wrong position”.[37]

Bandar Al Hajjar, Saudi Hajj minister at the time,[note 2] stated that the Hajj that year would be the last to be affected by reductions in pilgrim quotas due to construction work, saying “Starting from next Haj season, the number of pilgrims will increase to 5 million and then to 30 million in the coming five years”.[39][40]

Crane[edit]

Another view of construction at the Grand Mosque, showing cranes of the type that collapsed.

Another view of construction at the Grand Mosque, showing cranes of the type that collapsed.

The German-made Liebherr Group crawler crane LR 11350[41][42] involved in the incident is operated by the Saudi Binladin Group, who are heading the expansion of the Grand Mosque and also responsible for a large amount of major building contracts in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Binladen Group is the second largest construction company in the world and was founded by billionaire Mohammed Bin Laden.[5][43]An engineer for the group said that the crane was erected in “an extremely professional way”, and the accident was an “act of God“.[44]The Liebherr Group responded to the accident by sending local engineers and engineers from their crane manufacturing plant in Ehingen,Germany to help in the investigation of the accident and to assist on site.[45] Liebherr Group experts who participated in the investigation of the collapse found no structural flaws in the crane. Their report stated that the crane’s 190 meter long boom was not sufficiently secured by its operators so as to withstand the high winds present on the day of the collapse, and that use of that crane in those 80–105 kph winds was well outside the manufacturer’s recommended operating parameters.[46] The Saudi Gazette reported that Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir (Governor) of Mecca, had ordered the Binladin Group to relocate the crane from pedestrian areas and to deploy safeguards to prevent pilgrims entering the construction zone, eleven days before the accident.[47]

A source within the Mosque’s engineering department stated that the crane was removed from the mosque and will not be reconstructed. The source said that, in coordination with the Civil Defense, all of the 100 cranes still present near the Haram were inspected and found to be safe.[4]

Reaction[edit]

Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, criticised the Saudi authorities, believing that their redevelopment of holy sites was not only damaging history, but putting many pilgrims’ lives at risk.[44]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for immediate aid for Malaysian pilgrims who were injured in the incident.[48] Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered medical staff to assist with casualties.[49] Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said that a Pakistani medical team is engaged in providing medical treatment to the injured.[50]

Other leaders around the world offered condolences. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi[51] prayed that “Allah Almighty to grant the souls of the deceased rest in peace and forgiveness and to grant the injured a speedy recovery.” Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson stated that he was “deeply saddened” and offered “condolences to the families and friends of the victims”.[52]

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his “thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the crane crash in Mecca” and wished a “quick recovery” for the injured.[53] Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged “all Nigerians to pray for the continued safety of their compatriots who are currently in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj”.[54] Singapore‘s President Tony Tan extended his “deepest and heartfelt condolences” to the King and people of Saudi Arabia, and stated that “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families during this difficult time”.[55]

South African President Jacob Zuma[56] and Russian President Vladimir Putin[57] both offered their condolences. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wrote that “it was with heartache that I heard the news that hundreds of people who were on a pilgrimage to Mecca were killed and injured”.[58] United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter that his “thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones at Mecca today”.[53] United States Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement that the United States stood with Saudi Arabia and “all Muslims around the world in the aftermath of this dreadful incident at one of Islam’s holiest sites”.[59]

Compensation for victims[edit]

King Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered that a million Saudi riyal (US$266,000) be paid as compensation to the families of those who died in the crane collapse, and that two relatives of each of the deceased are to be the King’s guests for Hajj in 2016. The Saudi King has further ordered a million Riyals to be paid to each victim of the collapse with a permanent disability, and half a million riyal (US$133,000) to be paid to as compensation to collapse victims without lasting injuries.[60][61] King Salman also decreed that these compensation payments will not prevent private legal claims by the injured and families of the deceased.[62]

See also

Stampede at Mecca kills more than 700, injures 800+ at the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia

At least 717 ‘pilgrims’ have been crushed to death and more than 800 hurt in a stampede of pilgrims in one of the worst incidents in years to hit the Muslim Hajj in Saudi Arabia. And this happened just 2 weeks after a crane collapse killed 109 there.

Saudi Arabia has been widely condemned, even in the Arab world, for refusing to take in any of the Muslim refugees fleeing Syria, despite having huge air-conditioned tents with kitchens and plumbing that are used to accommodate more than 3 million people for the Hajj. Looks like they’ll have room for 717 more now.

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UK Daily Mail  Saudi Arabia’s civil defence service said rescue operations were under way after the stampede in Mina, where almost two million pilgrims were taking part in the last major rite of the Hajj.

Pictures showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street.

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Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area, placing victims on stretchers and desperately trying to resuscitate others. The disaster comes just two weeks after a construction crane collapsed at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, killing 109 people.

Pilgrims had converged on Mina just outside Mecca on Thursday to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan, the symbolic ‘stoning of the devil’ that marks the last day of the event.

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The civil defence service said that it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries and that at least 863 people had also been hurt.  Iran said at least 43 of its citizens were dead and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident.

But a Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims themselves, saying they had not followed the rules laid out by authorities.

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‘Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables’ set for the Hajj, Health Minister Khaled al-Falih told El-Ekhbariya television.

‘If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided,’ he said, vowing a ‘rapid and transparent’ investigation.

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The stampede began at around 9am (6am GMT), shortly after the civil defence service said on Twitter it was dealing with a ‘crowding’ incident in Mina, about three miles from Mecca.

A Sudanese pilgrim in Mina said this year’s Hajj was the most poorly organised of four he had attended. ‘People were already dehydrated and fainting’ before the stampede, said the pilgrim.

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In the past, the pilgrimage was for years marred by stampedes and fires, but it had been largely incident-free for nearly a decade following safety improvements. In January 2006, 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.

Thursday’s ritual was taking place at a five-storey structure known as the Jamarat Bridge, which cost more than $1billion to build and was used during earlier pilgrimages.

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Almost one kilometre long, it resembles a parking garage and allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual.

The faithful had gathered until dawn Thursday at nearby Muzdalifah where they chose their pebbles and stored them in empty water bottles.

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Yesterday, they had spent a day of prayer on a vast Saudi plain and Mount Arafat, a rocky hill about 10 kilometres from Mina, for the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The flow of exhausted pilgrims was so big that Saudi security forces had to form a human chain along the roads of the vast Arafat plain while a jets of water were sprayed on the huge crowds to keep them cool amid searing heat.

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By BareNakedIslam 

Death in Mecca

( Excerpt:Twilight Language)

The death toll from September 22’s stampede during a Hajj ritual, the Stoning of the Devil, outside of Mecca, has risen to 769, Saudi Arabia’s health minister announced on September 26, 2015.

Saudi officials said a total of 13,74,206 foreign pilgrims arrived for Hajj this year.
Thousands of Muslim pilgrims stone the walls, in a ritual called “Jamarat,” symbolizing the stoning the devil, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca.
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Every year, millions of Muslims converge on Saudi Arabia’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the Hajj pilgrimage, representing a major security and logistical challenge for the kingdom. On occasion, the Hajj and events surrounding it have been marred by tragedy. A look at some of the deadly incidents:
2015: Officially, 769 people are killed and more than 800 injured in a crush of pilgrims on September 22, in Mina, on the outskirts of Mecca.
2015: On September 11, 2015, a crane collapses in a storm and crashes onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 111 people are killed and injuring nearly 400.
2006: More than 360 pilgrims are killed in a stampede in Mina, near Mecca, where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil. A day before the Hajj begins, the collapse of an eight-story building used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque kills 73.
2004: A crush of pilgrims at Mina kills 244 people and injures hundreds on the Hajj’s final day.
2001: A stampede at Mina on the final day of the Hajj kills 35 people.
1998: About 180 people are trampled to death in panic after several of them fall from an overpass during the stoning ritual at Mina.
1997: At least 340 pilgrims are killed in a wind-whipped fire at a tent city in Mina. More than 1,500 are injured.
1994: About 270 people are killed in a stampede during the Mina ritual.

1990: A stampede kills 1,426 people at an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to the holy sites in Mecca in the worst Hajj-related tragedy.

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Across the Sands to Mecca: The Song of a Shriner (1947) book cover (from the Freemasonry’s Shriners) is courtesy of Adam Parfrey, coauthor of Ritual America.