Saudi minister blames undisciplined pilgrims for Hajj tragedy

MINA: Saudi Arabia’s health minister 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.”

At least 717 pilgrims died while another 863 were wounded in a stampede during the stoning of Satan at Mina, the Saudi civil defence said.

The pilgrims were killed in a crush at Mina, outside the holy city of Makkah, where some two million people are performing the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Earlier, Iran had accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors after at least 15 of its citizens died in the stampede.

The head of Iran’s Hajj organisation, Said Ohadi, said that for “unknown reasons” two paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.

“This caused this tragic incident,” he said on Iranian state television, giving the death toll, indicating that fatalities and casualties could rise.

Ohadi said the path closures had left only three routes to the area where the stoning ceremony was held.

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