A stampede during the Hajj outside of the holy Muslim city of Mecca has claimed about 717 lives and left 863 pilgrims injured, Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defense Service reported.
220 ambulances and 4,000 rescue workers were deployed in the field for emergency treatment of the victims of the crush.
The crush happened in Mecca’s neighborhood of Mina, which traditionally provides temporary accommodation for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. The ritual of the ‘Stoning of the Devil’ is performed in a valley surrounding the neighborhood on the night before last day of the Hajj.
The stampede happened in a street separating two pilgrim camps, Al Jazeera reported from the scene.
"The street is named Street 204. This stampede did not happen during the Stoning of the Devil ritual, which was happening today," correspondent Basma Atassi said.
Street 204 is one of the two main arteries in Mina leading through the camp at Mina to Jamarat Bridge, where the Stoning of the Devil ritual is performed.
The incident happened near an exit from a monorail train station near the tent camps. The camp sector houses pilgrims from Gulf nations, who apparently are the majority among the victims.
Muslims worldwide are celebrating on Thursday the holy day of Eid al-Adha. An estimated 2 million pilgrims traveled to Mecca for the celebration.
Just two weeks ago over a hundred people were killed in Mecca when a construction crane fell on the crowded Grand Mosque. The worshipers had gathered in the city ahead of this year’s Hajj.
Mina has seen a number of fatal stampedes over the years. In 1990 over 1,400 pilgrims died in a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel leading out of Mecca towards Mina, one of the most catastrophic of such incidents.
— عبدالملك سرور (@A_Sroor) September 24, 2015
A number of stampedes happened on the Jamarat Bridge. The death of almost 350 pilgrims in 2006 finally prompted Saudi Arabia to conduct reconstruction of the bridge to avoid such tragedies.