Pilgrims have begun to return to Mina, having spent the night in Muzdalifah after yesterday’s Standing at Arafat. The movement has been smooth, except for a tragic incident early this morning during the ritual of stoning at Jamarat, in which 244 pilgrims died and as many injured as a result of a stampede. Minister of Pilgrimage Iyad Madani confirmed that the condition of all except 7 or 8 of the 244 injured who had been admitted to various hospitals in Makkah, was not serious. At the site, action was immediately taken by the security forces and health personnel to prevent further casualties.
Minister Madani explained that the incident took place about 8 a.m., and that emergency teams from a number of agencies, including the National Guard, were rushed to the scene. The process of dispatching the pilgrims in groups for the pebble-throwing ritual was halted at around 9 a.m., and resumed at 12:30 p.m.; at this point, about half of the million pilgrims scheduled for today had completed the ritual. He speculated that most of the victims, who have not yet been identified, were unlicensed pilgrims. This year, he explained, nearly 12 percent of the 2,300,000 or so pilgrims who came into the Kingdom to perform Umrah (the minor pilgrimage) overstayed their visas; the schedule for the pebble-throwing does not include such non-licensed pilgrims.
The official number of pilgrims for the 1424 Hajj has been put at 1,892,710, the vast majority from abroad, with 473,004 from inside the Kingdom, most of them non-Saudis. Minister Madani commented that prior to the tragic incident, there had been only 272 deaths during the 1424 Hajj, as a result of disease, old age or exhaustion.