Death toll at Saudi Haj stampede rises to 717 and at least 863 pilgrims were injured in the crush, said the Saudi civil defense directorate, which provided the death toll. The tragedy struck as Muslims around the world marked the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
It also comes less than two weeks after a giant crane crashed down on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the site which is the focal point for the pilgrimage.
At least 111 people died then and more than 390 were injured.
One unnamed pilgrim said he had been planning to perform the stoning ritual in the afternoon but was too frightened to do so.
“I am very tired already and after this I can’t go. I will wait for the night and if it not resolved, I will see if maybe somebody else can do it on my behalf,” he said.
The deaths come on the first day of Eid, traditionally the most hazardous day of the Hajj because so many people are trying to perform rituals at the same time.
The last time so many people died at the Hajj was in 2006 whenat least 346 pilgrims were killed in a stampede in the same area
The pilgrimage lasts for five days.
It is seen as a religious duty for able-bodied Muslims to complete the Hajj at least once in their lifetime and take part in the rituals intended to cleanse their souls and promote the brotherhood and sisterhood of Islam.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s health minister has blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the deadly stampede Thursday during the hajj, saying the tragedy would not have occurred if they “had followed instructions”.
Health Minister Khaled al-Falih was quoted by El-Ekhbariya television as saying “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities, which was the “principal reason for this type of accident.”
“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”