Still hundreds missing after Mina stampede
Frustration is growing in several countries in Asia and Africa over slow identification process of Hajj pilgrims killed and hundreds more missing after the Mina stampede in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi official death toll from the worst disaster in 25 years at the Mecca hajj has not changed since 26 September: 769 dead and 934 injured.
But governments in more than twenty countries announced figures that, added together, exceed some 170 deaths given by Ryadh, not to mention some 630 pilgrims regarded by these governments as “disappeared” since the Mina tragedy of September 24 and whose has not been the Saudi state.
Iran, which has paid the heaviest tribe had previously announced figure of 241 missing but Thursday it strongly revised upwards the number of pilgrims killed, bringing it to 464, and has lost all hope on 16 others disappeared.
Last week, the tone suddenly mounted between Tehran and Riyadh, Shiite Iran accused Saudi Arabia Sunni incompetence in organizing the hajj and barriers in the process of repatriation of the bodies.
Others, without expressing direct criticism against Saudi Arabia, do what they can to help identify the dead and missing, while not hiding their frustration.
“The families of missing persons in distress,” said Mehbooba Mufti, head of the Indian hajj delegation, quoted by the daily Arab News.
“Their anxiety is getting more worsen day by day,” Mehbooba Mufti said, calling the Saudi kingdom to establish an effective mechanism to locate missing.
India has reported 51 deaths while Pakistan spoke of 46 deaths and 40 missing.
Other countries reporting missing include Nigeria (244), Egypt (94), Côte d’Ivoire (77), Indonesia (74), Morocco (29) and Libya (16).
The contradictions between the Saudi death toll and the figures given by the States are undoubtedly related to the delicate process of identifying bodies and research that continue for people who may have survived, without being reported.
“244 Nigerians are missing, but we assume that they did not die as long as we have not seen their bodies,” said Uba Mana, spokesman of the Nigerian hajj committee, added: “Search for missing after Mina stampede is continuing in different hospitals, medical centers and morgues in Saudi Arabia.”
On Thursday, the daily Al-Madinah reported that 20 teams Saudi Passport Department roamed the hospitals in the Mecca area to record the fingerprints of deaths and injuries that have not yet been identified.
Cissé Fatoumata Kouyate, president of the Malian Association of Travel Agencies and Tourism, also discussed the use of photographs to identify 60 deaths recorded among Malians.
“The approach that was adopted in Saudi Arabia is to take pictures of all those who died and hang them at different sites in Mina. People can then find in any event that such a person lost his life and put that in the counts,” she said.
Bushra Khaliq, a Saudi teacher in sailing center staff training among the 40 Pakistanis missing.
Bushra Khaliq’s sister Uzma Khaliq, based in Karachi, told AFP that a senior official had called her mother twice to make sure everything was done to find Bushra. She said her brother had gone there.
“We saw a picture of a woman injured in an intensive care unit and we believe that this could be Bushra, but we don’t know which hospital the photo was taken,” said Uzma.
The regulator of audiovisual media in Pakistan has ordered television stations to reduce the volume of criticism against Saudi Arabia not to offend this country, a close ally of Islamabad.
Frustration is also perceptible in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, announced 59 dead and 74 missing. Three “emergency teams” were formed to accelerate search operation on site, according to the government agency Antara.