The day after the catastrophic disaster, the Saudi Arabia government is under extreme pressure to improve the safety of the Hajj worshiping, in wake of the stampede outside Mecca. The stampede occurred during the annual pilgrimage on Thursday, day three of the five day ritual, killing at least 717 people and injuring a further 900 more. The Saudi government already issued a series of safety precautions after a crane collapsed earlier this month.
The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, criticised the Saudi government for the disaster, remarking that, “The Saudi government should accept its responsibility in this bitter incident. We should not overlook that mismanagement and inappropriate conducts caused this disaster.”. Whilst the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, concurred stating that; “there must be improvements in the management of the hajj so that this incident is not repeated.”.
According to journalist Khaled Al-Maeena, he believes one of the main reasons for the stampede is the pilgrims rushing to finish the worshiping; “People like to do the first stoning in the morning,” the reported told CNN.
The pilgrim is difficult enough as it is but with the blistering heat, and temperatures soaring over 43 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit), anyone caught without water and shade is at risk of heatstroke. Hajj pilgrim, Ethar El-Katatney, explained that, “There’s so little time to complete the rituals,”. She went on to explain, “I was out for a couple of hours just kind of taking photos, recording. And just two hours standing in the sun makes you so dizzy and so incredibly faint,” she said from Mina. “But regardless, people were still continuing … their ritual, where the stampede happened.”
King Salman called for improvements in the management of the pilgrimage, but it appears that some members of the Saudi government, blame the victims themselves. The King addressed the public on TV stating that, “We have instructed concerned authorities to review the operations plan… to raise the level of organisation and management to ensure that the guests of God perform their rituals in comfort and ease.”.
The government is yet to fully release a breakdown for he nationalities involved in the disaster, yet several foreign countries have announced the deaths of their nationals. Death tolls by foreign officials and media so far state: Iran, 131; Morocco, 87; India, 14; Egypt, 8; Pakistan, 7; Turkey, 4; Algeria, 3; Indonesia, 3; and Netherlands, 1.
Pilgrim El-Katatney said the sights she saw whilst filming the stampede were “horrendous”. “It’s literally a pile of bodies of people who … pushed, they shoved, they panicked, they screamed,” she said. “It was hot, someone fell, others trampled and they got stampeded.”.
She spoke to several men who were unfortunate enough to be caught in the chaos, “They told me how if you fell, if you weren’t strong enough to withstand the pushing and shoving … if you fell, you weren’t going to get up again.”.