Mark Linnhoefer – During one of the last ceremonies of the Muslim Haji season, a stampede broke out in a tent village near Mecca, causing at least 717 deaths. At least 863 were injured.
The ritual is a reenactment of Mohammed stoning the devil and rejecting his temptations, performed nowadays by pelting three pillars with stones. The ceremony has cause hundreds of deaths in past years as well.
According to authorities, that stampede is being dealt with by civil defense. The current death toll lies at 717, but the number is constantly increasing. Initial reports were just over 300
The ritual in itself represents a religious climax for many Muslims, as some save their money for decades to be able to attend, making the event an emotionally-fueled happening that has all the potential to escalate the way it has over and over again the past years. The government has now sent 4000 medical workers and 220 ambulances to assist the people struck by the stampede.
In 2006, a similar thing happened, causing 363 deaths. In reaction to this, Saudi officials have built three large stone pillars and a huge bridge so as to provide a more open and relaxed environment for the believers in an effort to combat stampedes.
The effort has obviously failed, and many devout Muslims have died on the day of the stoning, making it obvious that further efforts will have to be taken to ensure that the faithful make it through the Haji season unharmed.