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Saudi King orders probe into horror stampede

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Saudi Arabia’s King has ordered an investigation into a stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage that has left at least 717 people dead and 800 others injured.

The crush in Mina occurred as two large crowds passed each other moving to and from a site where pilgrims throw stones at three pillars, symbolising the stoning of the devil.

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It was the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month, after a crane collapse in Mecca killed more than 100.

It occurred despite a multi-billion-dollar upgrade to facilities and the deployment of 100,000 members of the security forces.

Hajj pilgrims and Saudi emergency personnel carry a woman on a stretcher at the tragedy site. Getty
Hajj pilgrims and Saudi emergency personnel carry a woman on a stretcher at the tragedy site. Getty

King Salman has ordered “a revision of the plans” for Hajj organisation so that pilgrims can “carry out their rituals in complete safety”, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

A Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims for the tragedy and said they had not followed Hajj rules.

“Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables,” health minister Khaled al-Falih said.

“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who chairs the kingdom’s Hajj committee, ordered an investigation, and King Salman said he wanted the results quickly.

Footage of the aftermath of the tragedy showed bodies in piles, surrounded by discarded personal belongings and flattened water bottles.

In some areas rescue workers laid bodies in long rows on stretchers, limbs protruding from beneath white sheets.

Mohammed Mustafa is on the pilgramage and said people were still coming to terms with the tragedy.

“It’s every Muslim’s dream to be here. So to get this news is heartbreaking,” he said.