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40 years of tragedy: The hajj has been plagued by disaster

Over 3,980 people have died in tragedies in the hajj since 1975.

Image: Associated Press

WITH A DEATH toll of more than 700, Thursday’s stampede at the hajj pilgrimage outside of Mecca was one of the world’s deadliest for more than a century.

The worst also occurred during the hajj, in 1990, and was followed by another incident involving Muslim pilgrims, in Baghdad, in 2005.

Hajj tragedies

On July 2, 1990, 1,426 mostly Asian Muslim pilgrims perished, trampled underfoot and asphyxiated in a tunnel at Mina, after a ventilation system failure.

The accident came on the last day of the annual pilgrimage and the first day of the Eid al-Adha feast of sacrifice marked by the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims.

The pilgrims were in Mina, just to the east of Mecca, for the ritual stoning of the devil, as was the case on Thursday. Several tunnels had been drilled to facilitate the movement of the faithful between the shrines.

According to the authorities, panic set in inside a tunnel when seven pilgrims fell from a bridge.

Witnesses said a power outage paralysed the two powerful ventilators of the tunnel, which was one kilometre (3,281 feet) long and 20 metres (yards) wide. Some 5,000 people were in the tunnel, which was only designed to hold 1,000, according to the media.

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Pilgrims die in Baghdad 

It was also during a pilgrimage that on August 31, 2005 a stampede on the Al-Aimmah bridge in Baghdad killed up to 1,000 pilgrims.

In Iraq’s bloodiest day since the 2003 US-led invasion, hundreds of women, children and elderly people were trampled underfoot or jumped to their deaths from a bridge over the Tigris River.

The stampede erupted after the Kadhimiyah mosque – burial place of the 8th century Imam Musa Kazim – came under mortar fire during the annual ceremony to celebrate his birth.

The attack sparked rumours that a suicide bomber was among the vast crowd of pilgrims who had gathered to attend the ceremony.

Tsar’s coronation marred

On May 30, 1896, a stampede at Khodynka field in Moscow during celebrations for the coronation of Tsar Nicolas II of Russia left 1,389 dead.

Originally published: 8.15am

Read: Death toll from Muslim pilgrimage tragedy reaches 717>

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