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Horror at the Hajj: At least 700 people are crushed to death and hundreds injured in stampede during Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca just two weeks after crane collapse killed 109 {VIDEO+PICS}

Muslim Hajj stampede near Mecca leaves 700 people crushed to death in Saudi Arabia

  • Rescue under way after stampede in Mina where two million pilgrims were taking part in the last major rite of Hajj
  • Massive crowds gather in Mecca every year with Islam requiring all Muslims to perform Hajj once in their lifetime
  • Saudi officials use 100,000 police and large numbers of stewards to ensure safety and help those who lose their way
  • Comes weeks after crane toppled into the Grand Mosque killing more than 100 people and injuring hundreds more

At least 717 people have been crushed to death and hundreds of others hurt in a stampede of pilgrims in one of the worst incidents in years to hit the Muslim Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia's civil defence service said rescue operations were under way after the stampede in Mina, where almost two million pilgrims were taking part in the last major rite of the Hajj.

Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street.

Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area, placing victims on stretchers and desperately trying to resuscitate others.

The disaster comes just two weeks after a construction crane collapsed at Mecca's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, killing 109 people.

Scroll down for video 

Crushed to death: Bodies of Muslims who died in a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the Hajj pilgrimage lie strewn across the road

Crushed to death: Bodies of Muslims who died in a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the Hajj pilgrimage lie strewn across the road

A pilgrim walks through the site where dead bodies are gathered in one of the worst incidents to hit the Muslim Hajj in Saudi Arabia

A pilgrim walks through the site where dead bodies are gathered in one of the worst incidents to hit the Muslim Hajj in Saudi Arabia

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Rescue workers in orange and yellow vests comb the area, placing victims on stretchers and desperately trying to resuscitate others.

Rescue workers in orange and yellow vests comb the area, placing victims on stretchers and desperately trying to resuscitate others.

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Pilgrims gather around victims of a stampede which has killed hundreds of Muslims during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia

Pilgrims gather around victims of a stampede which has killed hundreds of Muslims during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia

Hajj horror: The stampede occurred in a morning surge of pilgrims at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns, according to the Saudi civil defense directorate

Hajj horror: The stampede occurred in a morning surge of pilgrims at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns, according to the Saudi civil defense directorate

Bodies of hundreds of dead and injured pilgrims lie strewn across the floor after they were caught up in a horrific stampede in Saudi Arabia

Bodies of hundreds of dead and injured pilgrims lie strewn across the floor after they were caught up in a horrific stampede in Saudi Arabia

Health workers help the injured near the Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca
Health workers help the injured near the Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca

More than 220 rescue vehicles and some 4,000 members of the emergency services were deployed soon after the stampede to try to ease the congestion and provide alternative exit routes

Rescue workers treat a pilgrim after hundreds of people were crushed to death and nearly 400 hurt in a stampede in Saudi Arabia

Rescue workers treat a pilgrim after hundreds of people were crushed to death and nearly 400 hurt in a stampede in Saudi Arabia

A medic performs CPR on a Muslim after a stampede killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims in the holy city of Mina during the Hajj pilgrimage

A medic performs CPR on a Muslim after a stampede killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims in the holy city of Mina during the Hajj pilgrimage

Terrifying: Pictures and video revealed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street

Terrifying: Pictures and video revealed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies – the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during Hajj – lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street

The Hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and every capable Muslim must perform it at least once in a lifetime.

In the past, the pilgrimage was for years marred by stampedes and fires, but it had been largely incident-free for nearly a decade following safety improvements.

In January 2006, 364 pilgrims were killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina. 

Health workers help the wounded near Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca after the stampede killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims

Health workers help the wounded near Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca after the stampede killed and injured hundreds of pilgrims

Hazard: The stampede was the deadliest disaster at the Hajj since 2006, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a crush in the same area

Hazard: The stampede was the deadliest disaster at the Hajj since 2006, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a crush in the same area

Thursday's ritual was taking place at a five-storey structure known as the Jamarat Bridge, which cost more than $1billion to build and was used during earlier pilgrimages.

Almost one kilometre long, it resembles a parking garage and allows 300,000 pilgrims an hour to carry out the ritual.

The faithful had gathered until dawn Thursday at nearby Muzdalifah where they chose their pebbles and stored them in empty water bottles.

It was not immediately clear if the stoning ritual at Mina would continue as planned until Saturday after the stampede.

Yesterday, they had spent a day of prayer on a vast Saudi plain and Mount Arafat, a rocky hill about 10 kilometres from Mina, for the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The flow of exhausted pilgrims was so big that Saudi security forces had to form a human chain along the roads of the vast Arafat plain while a jets of water were sprayed on the huge crowds to keep them cool amid searing heat. 

En masse: Nearly two million Muslims make their way to cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan in a ritual called Jamarat

En masse: Nearly two million Muslims make their way to cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan in a ritual called Jamarat

Disaster: The tragedy happened as pilgrims converged on Mina just outside Mecca to throw pebbles (above) at one of three walls representing Satan, the symbolic 'stoning of the devil' that marks the last day of the event

Disaster: The tragedy happened as pilgrims converged on Mina just outside Mecca to throw pebbles (above) at one of three walls representing Satan, the symbolic 'stoning of the devil' that marks the last day of the event

The faithful had gathered until dawn on Thursday at nearby Muzdalifah where they chose their pebbles and stored them in empty water bottles

The faithful had gathered until dawn on Thursday at nearby Muzdalifah where they chose their pebbles and stored them in empty water bottles

Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept and prayed – despite the scorching sun – at the spot where Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon. 

Carrying colourful umbrellas, they walked from dawn in massive crowds towards the slippery, rocky hill which is also known as Mount Mercy.

Here they believe Mohammed gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on Hajj. 

Many reached Arafat by bus while some walked from the holy city of Mecca about nine miles away. Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles.

For many pilgrims, Hajj is the spiritual highlight of their lives. 

'We feel blessed. I got goosebumps, a feeling that cannot be explained, when reaching the top of the mountain,' said Ruhaima Emma, a 26-year-old Filipina pilgrim, who said she has been 'praying for a good life for everyone'. 

Disaster: The Hajj tragedy comes just two weeks after a crane toppled into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 people (above)

Disaster: The Hajj tragedy comes just two weeks after a crane toppled into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 people (above)

Struck before evening prayers: Pictures on social media show the scale of crane collapse casualties with bodies strewn across the mosque

Struck before evening prayers: Pictures on social media show the scale of crane collapse casualties with bodies strewn across the mosque

Tens of thousands of Muslims defied the scorching sun to perform prayers in Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage yesterday

Tens of thousands of Muslims defied the scorching sun to perform prayers in Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage yesterday

On the move: Millions of Muslim pilgrims set off before dawn yesterday to make their way to a day of prayer at the foot of Mount Arafat

On the move: Millions of Muslim pilgrims set off before dawn yesterday to make their way to a day of prayer at the foot of Mount Arafat

Water vapour sprays down from metal pipes to cool the crowds of tens of thousands of Muslims during their day of prayers at Arafat yesterday

Water vapour sprays down from metal pipes to cool the crowds of tens of thousands of Muslims during their day of prayers at Arafat yesterday

Global gathering: They walked from dawn in massive crowds towards the slippery, rocky hill which is also known as Mount Mercy

Global gathering: They walked from dawn in massive crowds towards the slippery, rocky hill which is also known as Mount Mercy

Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept and prayed despite the scorching sun at the spot where Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon

Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept and prayed despite the scorching sun at the spot where Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon

Taking in the view: Huge numbers were up and about before first light ahead of a day of prayer on the Plain of Arafat - nine miles from Mecca

Taking in the view: Huge numbers were up and about before first light ahead of a day of prayer on the Plain of Arafat - nine miles from Mecca

Many reached Arafat by bus while some walked from the holy city of Mecca about nine miles away. Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles

Many reached Arafat by bus while some walked from the holy city of Mecca about nine miles away. Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles

Many carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they performed their prayers this morning with hundreds of thousands of others

Many carried umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they performed their prayers this morning with hundreds of thousands of others

A wagon filled with fruit is stationed in the middle of a huge crowd of pilgrims as they worship at the foot of Mount Arafat

A wagon filled with fruit is stationed in the middle of a huge crowd of pilgrims as they worship at the foot of Mount Arafat

Many of the exhausted pilgrims slept at the foot of Mount Arafat
Many of the exhausted pilgrims slept at the foot of Mount Arafat after walking the nine miles from Mecca with thousands of others (pictured)

Many of the exhausted pilgrims slept at the foot of Mount Arafat (right) after walking the nine miles from Mecca with thousands of others (left)

Pilgrims believe that thi was the spot where Mohammed gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on Hajj

Pilgrims believe that thi was the spot where Mohammed gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on Hajj

Crowds crammed together as they prepared for a day of worship. Many were brought in by bus but thousands walked from Mecca

Crowds crammed together as they prepared for a day of worship. Many were brought in by bus but thousands walked from Mecca

For Akram Ghannam, 45, from war-torn Syria, being in Arafat is a 'feeling that cannot be described. I pray to God for the victory of all those who are oppressed.'

Other pilgrims arrived from nearby Mina using the elevated Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, a tent city where many pilgrims spent Tuesday night. 

This year's gathering is about the same size as last year's, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom. 

Islam requires all able-bodied Muslims to perform the Hajj once in a lifetime – and each year huge crowds are drawn to Mecca to carry out a series of rituals and prayers aimed at erasing past sins.

Pictures yesterday show newly-arrived pilgrims circling the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure in Mecca's Grand Mosque toward which all Muslims pray. 

This year's gathering is about the same size as last year's, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom

This year's gathering is about the same size as last year's, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom

A day to remember: Two pilgrims used a selfie stick as they pictured themselves near Mount Arafat before dawn this morning

A day to remember: Two pilgrims used a selfie stick as they pictured themselves near Mount Arafat before dawn this morning

After sunset on Wednesday they will move to Muzdalifah where there they will gather pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual

After sunset on Wednesday they will move to Muzdalifah where there they will gather pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual

For many pilgrims, it is the spiritual highlight of their lives. Islam requires all able-bodied Muslims to perform the Hajj once in a lifetime

For many pilgrims, it is the spiritual highlight of their lives. Islam requires all able-bodied Muslims to perform the Hajj once in a lifetime

Saudi authorities deploy 100,000 police and vast numbers of stewards to ensure safety and help those who lose their way. They have also invested in expensive infrastructure, including a new urban railway, to ferry pilgrims around safely.

It comes just weeks after a crane toppled into Mecca's Grand Mosque killing more than 100 people and injuring hundreds more. 

The crane which collapsed during a thunderstorm was one of several working on a multi-billion-dollar expansion of the mosque to accommodate mounting numbers of faithful.

Despite the tragedy, Saudi officials quickly vowed that the Hajj to Mecca would go ahead with thousands descending on the city. 

Global gathering: Each year huge crowds are drawn to Mecca to carry out a series of rituals and prayers aimed at erasing past sins

Global gathering: Each year huge crowds are drawn to Mecca to carry out a series of rituals and prayers aimed at erasing past sins

Pictures show pilgrims circling the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure in Mecca's Grand Mosque toward which all Muslims pray

Pictures show pilgrims circling the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped structure in Mecca's Grand Mosque toward which all Muslims pray

Once in a lifetime: Saudi officials have also invested in expensive infrastructure, including a new urban railway, to ferry pilgrims around safely

Once in a lifetime: Saudi officials have also invested in expensive infrastructure, including a new urban railway, to ferry pilgrims around safely

During the Hajj, pilgrims shed symbols of worldly materialism, entering a state known as 'ihram' - women forgo makeup and perfume for loose fitted clothing and a head-covering while men wear seamless terry cloth white garments.

The pilgrimage is among the five main pillars of Islam, which also include belief in the oneness of God and the Prophet Muhammad as his final messenger, five daily prayers facing toward the Kaaba, annual charity and fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Muslims believe the Hajj traces the paths of the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael and Muhammad. Pilgrims start the Hajj in Mecca, before heading to the nearby tent city of Mina, five kilometers (three miles) away.

During the Hajj, pilgrims shed symbols of worldly materialism, entering a state known as 'ihram' - women forgo makeup and perfume for loose fitted clothing and a head-covering while men wear seamless terry cloth white garments

During the Hajj, pilgrims shed symbols of worldly materialism, entering a state known as 'ihram' - women forgo makeup and perfume for loose fitted clothing and a head-covering while men wear seamless terry cloth white garments

A Muslim pilgrim cries while praying at the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, during the annual Pilgrimage, known as Hajj

A Muslim pilgrim cries while praying at the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, during the annual Pilgrimage, known as Hajj

A Muslim pilgrim uses an electric wheelchair to circle the Kaaba. The Hajj requires physical perseverance, finances and a coveted Hajj visa, which is limited to country-by-country quotas to manage crowd safety

A Muslim pilgrim uses an electric wheelchair to circle the Kaaba. The Hajj requires physical perseverance, finances and a coveted Hajj visa, which is limited to country-by-country quotas to manage crowd safety

In Mecca, they circle the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times, and also re-enact the path of Hagar, the wife of the patriarch Abraham, who Muslims believe ran between two hills searching for water for her dying young son. 

Tradition holds that God then brought forth a spring of water that runs until this day and which Muslims drink from during the Hajj.

Since arriving to Mecca over the past several weeks, hundreds of thousands have chanted, 'Labayk Allahuma Labayk,' or 'Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am.'

Many prayed for their deceased kin. Sadi Zawya, who lost his wife earlier year and is now raising his five children on his own was among the sea of people.

Arriving from Egypt, 62-year-old Hoda Darahim said her 35 year-old daughter died this year, and that she is now raising her two grandchildren, relying on financial help from her older sons and the small government pension she receives.

In Mecca, they circle the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times, and also re-enact the path of Hagar, the wife of the patriarch Abraham, who Muslims believe ran between two hills searching for water for her dying young son

In Mecca, they circle the Kaaba counterclockwise seven times, and also re-enact the path of Hagar, the wife of the patriarch Abraham, who Muslims believe ran between two hills searching for water for her dying young son

The main day of Hajj this year falls on Wednesday, when between 2 to 3 million pilgrims gather in a valley called Arafat, packed shoulder to shoulder in prayer

The main day of Hajj this year falls on Wednesday, when between 2 to 3 million pilgrims gather in a valley called Arafat, packed shoulder to shoulder in prayer

Muslim pilgrims pray while touching the Kaaba. Saudi authorities deploy 100,000 police and vast numbers of stewards to ensure safety and help those who lose their way

Muslim pilgrims pray while touching the Kaaba. Saudi authorities deploy 100,000 police and vast numbers of stewards to ensure safety and help those who lose their way

'Her dream was to perform the Hajj,' Darahim said of her daughter. 'So I am fulfilling her wish.'

Moussa bin Abdullah Butu, a 38-year-old artist from Nigeria, said this will be his third Hajj but an especially challenging one since he lost his two-year old son, Abdullah, to a long illness earlier this year. 'In the white ihram, the rich man and the poor, we are all together,' he said.

The Hajj requires physical perseverance, finances and a coveted Hajj visa, which is limited to country-by-country quotas to manage crowd safety. Butu said he was very grateful for his visa and the opportunity to once again perform the hajj.

'I know that I am one of the people that Allah chose ... I am one of the people Allah called this year,' Butu said.

The main day of Hajj this year falls on Wednesday, when between 2 to 3 million pilgrims gather in a valley called Arafat, packed shoulder to shoulder in prayer. 

It is at Arafat where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon some 1,400 years ago, calling for equality and unity among Muslims.

STAMPEDES, FALLING CRANES AND COLLAPSED BUILDINGS: HOW THOUSANDS HAVE DIED ON THE HAJJ PILGRIMAGE 

Every year, millions of Muslims converge on the Saudi holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, with the massive ceremonies representing a major security and logistical challenge for the kingdom's authorities.

On occasion, the Hajj and events surrounding it have been marred by accidents and tragedies, such as today's stampede near Mecca.

Here's a look at some deadly hajj-related incidents:

2015: At least 107 people are killed and scores wounded when a crane collapses in bad weather, crashing onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest site. 

2006: More than 360 pilgrims are killed in a stampede at the desert plain of Mina, near Mecca, where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. 

The day before the Hajj began, an eight-story building being used as a hostel near the Grand Mosque in Mecca collapsed, killing at least 73 people. 

2004: A crush of pilgrims at Mina kills 244 pilgrims and injures hundreds on the final day of the hajj ceremonies. 

2001: A stampede at Mina during the final day of the pilgrimage ceremonies kills 35 Hajj pilgrims. 

1998: About 180 pilgrims are trampled to death in panic after several of them fell off an overpass during the final stoning ritual at Mina. 

1997: At least 340 pilgrims are killed in a fire at the tent city of Mina as the blaze was aided by high winds. More than 1,500 were injured.

1994: Some 270 pilgrims are killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual at Mina.

1990: The worst hajj-related tragedy claims the lives of 1,426 pilgrims in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.

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Comment by rashid rourk on September 26, 2015 at 10:08am
This isn't the first incident people dying making Hajj, lets see if Saudi Arabia will prevent future danger for people searching for peace and enlightenment.
Comment by K. LeBlanc on September 25, 2015 at 12:38pm
I always love to see Muslims gather. Their faith and love is strong....but this is so sad, 700+ people? Damn! Stampede??? What caused over 1000+ people to suddenly start RUNNING??? why don't we have any images of those few seconds right before the bodies are sprawled out??? Pray for all the deceased and their families
Comment by lynz on September 24, 2015 at 4:10pm
Wow!! This is truly devastating! My heart sincerely grieves for all the lives lost & hurt by this catastrophe! Big sigh...
Comment by MLethal M on September 24, 2015 at 2:35pm
May God bless those that passed away during the stampede as their only mistake was to not stop the Pilgrimage in the name of Allah....
Comment by GospelPan on September 24, 2015 at 1:20pm

I love their passion and commitment...

Comment by dao on September 24, 2015 at 12:38pm
Wow amazingly I love their courage

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