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Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 20:22 GMT
Saudis review Hajj danger points
Woman carried from scene of stampede
There was a panic after some people collapsed near the stoning area
Saudi Arabia is setting up a high-level group to redevelop Islam's holiest sites following a stampede that is now said to have killed 251 people.

Disaster struck at the ritual "stoning of Satan" at Jamarat Bridge in Mina, near Mecca - site of similar incidents.

Some two million Muslims took part in this year's Hajj rituals, which reached their climax on Saturday.

At least 54 Indonesians, 36 Pakistanis and 13 Egyptians were among those who died, according to an official list.

My mom, brother, and brother-in-law are performing Hajj this year. I am extremely worried
Arif Chowdhury, College Station, Texas, USA

Fifty three were of unknown nationality; 11 were from India; 11 from Turkey; and 10 from Bangladesh.

Another 10 came from African countries.

The death toll rose by seven from the original figure of 244 on Monday, after six more bodies were found and one of the injured died in hospital.

The Hajj - a key obligation for Muslim faithful - continued on Monday as pilgrims left the plane of Mina, site of the Jamarat columns, and headed for Mecca.

There they will perform a final circumambulation of the Kaaba, the black cubic structure in the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque.

Preventive measures

There were more reports of stampedes on Monday, with police giving warnings by megaphone and ambulances seen among the crowds.

There were no further deaths or major incidents, though "dozens" of people were said to have been taken to hospital after losing consciousness.

1997: Fire kills 343 pilgrims and injures 1,500 at camp in Mina
1994: Stampede near Jamarat bridge kills at least 270 pilgrims
1990: Stampede in crowded tunnel leading to holy sites kills 1,426 pilgrims
1987: About 400 killed - mainly Iranian Shia pilgrims - in clashes with Saudi forces

The ritual at Jamarat Bridge - in which stones are hurled at pillars representing the devil - is usually the most dangerous part of the Hajj.

Physically exhausted after three days of rites, thousands of pilgrims converge around the pillars to cast their stones before beginning the religious feast of Eid al-Adha, when animals are sacrificed.

Last year 14 pilgrims were crushed to death during it, and 35 died in a 2001 stampede.

The Saudi authorities said they had tried to avoid stampedes this year by urging people to perform the ritual at different times.

They also tried to control numbers by setting quotas for pilgrims from each country and requiring their citizens to register.

But this year some pilgrims were "not organised" and their personal belongings caused obstructions, said Hajj Minister Iyad Madani.

"There was more than 400 metres of people pushing in the same direction (which) resulted in the collapse of those next to the stoning area... and those behind. That led to panic," he added.

Reuters news agency quoted SPA as saying King Fahd ordered the formation of the Committee for the Development of Mecca and Medina following the latest disaster.

The committee - which will have its own budget and be funded and supported by all the kingdom's ministries - will draft a new layout for Mina and other holy sites.

The Saudi Press Agency said the re-development project at Mecca and Medina would take 20 years.

Click here to return

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