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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 14:43 GMT
Hajj tragedy: Eyewitness accounts
Crowds at the scene of the stampede in Mina, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia
The ritual in Mina has seen many lethal stampedes
Saudi officials have said that police could not have done more to prevent a stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage in which at least 362 Muslims died.

Hundreds of people have emailed the BBC News website, some revealing what they witnessed of the tragedy, others speaking of the desperate search for relatives caught up in the chaos.

Here are some of their stories.

MIDDLE EAST

I was there at about 1220 local time to throw the stones. The pilgrims made a mistake - they were standing near the entrance of the bridge when the police tried to set them aside. The police could not use strong force to evacuate them. Many hajjis carried their luggage with them - I asked one person why and he said it was because he did not want to have to go back to the city of Mina afterwards. Proper training should be given to pilgrims before they perform the ritual.
Mohd Hussamuddin Siddique, Mecca. Saudi Arabia

My mother was at the Hajj as a personal doctor to a group of Kuwaiti women. I felt relieved when I heard my mother's voice over the phone, telling me that she was fine, but she cannot say the same for others. She said the scene was sudden and dreadful, with most pilgrims hearing a commotion nearby while others saw people tripping and being pushed from behind by others, piling up on one another. I am thankful my mother is OK but I am sad for the families of the pilgrims who died.
Mohammed Al Hilali, Cairo, Egypt

AFRICA

My husband is on the Hajj and called to say that many were killed, including some security personnel. God have mercy on all those that are affected by this tragedy.
Karima Sheik Alli, South Africa

My uncle and my aunt are among the pilgrims and I have no idea if they are alive or dead. I believe it is technically impossible to foresee this kind of situation, no matter what type of security measures the Saudi authorities undertake. When fear and panic engulfs the hearts and minds of thousands of pilgrims it is virtually impossible to stop people from running and trampling on others as each person runs for his life.
Mohamed B Khalif, Somalia

SOUTH ASIA

My mother and my brother have gone to perform Hajj from America. I have no information about them and I'm extremely worried. I'm amazed that in this day and age we still get remarks like: "It is the will of Allah." Well, Allah has also given us the powers to perform better. We Muslims should learn to accept our shortcomings and try to improve ourselves.
M Ismail, Karachi, Pakistan

My dad is currently in Mina for his Hajj. He told us that news of the stampede is spreading very fast. During the stoning ritual, one cannot even stand as the wave of crowds forces each person to move. How much can the Saudi government do? Every year they make amendments but something always happens.
Adil, Delhi, India

ASIA PACIFIC

My mother told us to go for the stoning after prayers. She knows that Mina is overcrowded after the first set of prayers because it is considered the best time. We all went to Mina at about 1530 local time and I saw hundreds of police walking to the Jamarat. My mother knew there was something wrong. I'm very sad.
Amalia, Indonesian in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

AMERICAS

I just spoke to my friend's father who was on his Hajj and witnessed the tragedy firsthand. He said it was the people's mistake for carrying too much luggage on their buses.
Omal, Atlanta, GA, US

My parents are performing the Hajj and I spoke to them soon after I heard the news. They went to the stoning ritual after the incident occurred and when they arrived at the pillars, there was a large police presence and the crowd volume was very low. Although it would be an enormous task, I think authorities should control the flow by restricting groups to smaller numbers. It would take a little extra time for the pilgrims but would prevent stampedes on a large scale.
Mohsin, Hamilton, Canada

My mother went to perform the Hajj with my brother and his wife. God willing, we will get word on their status. The Hajj is not meant to be such a dangerous event. The fact that the Saudi government has not learned from the past underlines the need to remove them as the keepers of Islam's holiest place. I will refrain from participating in the pilgrimage until the organisers learn how to watch over their guests correctly.
Adil, Montreal, Canada

EUROPE/ UK

I'm searching the internet in order to find who the dead are, because my 80-year-old grandmother is in Mina where the stampede took place. I'm worried about her and do not know how I can learn how she is at the moment. I do not understand why the authorities did not take enough precautions. Many people were killed in previous years.
Dilek Akay, Amasya, Turkey

My parents were caught up in this tragedy. I spent most of the day trying to get in contact with them and after several hours I was lucky enough to get through to my mother's mobile phone. Fortunately, they were safe. However, my father was at the place where the tragedy occurred. He said that he was squashed and could not breathe. He luckily managed to escape. After hearing this news, I have a mixture of feelings. I am relieved that my parents are safe. However, I feel for the people who were caught up in this.
Siken, Nelson, Lancs, UK

Some of my family are there this year and I have been told that one of my relatives is in hospital, but thank God he is not seriously hurt and can communicate. Please do not blame the Saudi authorities. They are trying their best to make the pilgrimage as safe as possible.
Omar, London, UK

I just spoke to my nephew, who is out there, and he says it was bound to happen sooner or later. He thought it was very disorganised. People are always rushing and pushing when they are not supposed to. He also said the buses never seem to stop - most people have to jump on them while they are still moving. He thinks the ritual should be staggered so that people can do it at a better pace rather than have so many people competing for space.
Hazera Forth, Bedford, England

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HAJJ 2006: PILGRIMS' COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
Indonesia 190,000
Pakistan 120,000
Turkey 120,000
India 100,000
Nigeria 59,000*
Bangladesh 53,000
UK 25,000
USA 10,000
All countries 2,100,000

*Some Nigerian pilgrims did not make it to Saudi Arabia due to flight problems






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