While our hearts go out for the pilgrims who lost their lives in the horrible tragedy which occurred in 2015 during Hajj, we should also note that this is not the first time an incident has occurred in which pilgrims have lost their lives. The Mina incident 2015 occurred due to overcrowding of pilgrims in a certain area, which caused a stampede. Another incident similar to the Mina incident was the 1990 Hajj Stampede. On July 2, 1990 a stampede occurred during the annual pilgrimage or Hajj. The death toll in this stampede was recorded at 1426 people. In all of the Hajj tragedies of modern times, this particular incident held the highest death toll of all time.
The main stampede started inside the pedestrian tunnel known as Al Maaisim Tunnel which leads out towards Mina and plains of Arafat from Mecca. The pedestrian tunnel is 600 yards long and has a width of 35 feet. The tunnel was 1 part of a $ 15 Billion project started by the Saudi Government around the Holy sites of Mecca. While the pilgrims had been travelling to perform the ritual of stoning of the devil, a stampede erupted when the bridge railing bent and caused several people to fall off the bridge and some even fell on top of others who were trying to escape.
The tunnel had a maximum capacity of 1000 people however at that time around 5000 people occupied the tunnel. The temperature also reached up to 44 degrees C, which resulted in the ventilation system of the tunnel to, malfunction, which added in the overall death toll of the incident. Some witnesses at the scene stated that some form of demonstration was taking place, while others reported that the tunnel’s power supply was cut off. The official version from Saudi Arabia stated that the hysteria of the crowd which occurred due to the falling pilgrims was the main cause of the large number of deaths.
A majority of the pilgrims who lost their lives that day were of Pakistani, Indonesian and Malaysian origin. Immediately after the incident the Late King Fahd stated that the incident which occurred was the will of God, which is above everything else. The Late King also added that if the pilgrims had not died here, them they would have died in some other place at the same pre destined moment. Around 680 people out of the total death toll belonged to Indonesia, which resulted in the Indonesian government severely criticizing the Government of Saudi Arabia. The Indonesian officials stated that the Saudi Government cannot run from their responsibility for the disaster in the tunnel by simply saying that the incident was an act of God.
Iran also expressed grave concerns after the incident took place, although not quite to the same level which could be seen in the protests prior to the 1987 incident which ultimately led to 400 Shia pilgrims losing their lives during pilgrimage.
Source: The Guardian
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