At least 717 killed, hundreds injured in Mecca stampede

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (TIP): A stampede has killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the hajj in Saudi Arabia in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

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

The stampede broke out in Mina during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said.

Australian officials said they were still working to determine whether any Australians were among the dead or injured.

Video posted online showed bodies in piles, surrounded by discarded personal belongings and flattened water bottles.

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

The civil defence said it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries.

At least 863 people were hurt, the agency said.

Iran announced that 90 of its nationals were among the dead, and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors.

King Salman 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.

Nearly two million people from across the globe were attending the hajj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world.

A Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims for the tragedy, saying they had not followed hajj rules.

“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.”

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