Video is emerging of a Mecca stampede that has left more than 700 people dead, with the death toll continuing to rise.
The tragedy took place during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season, an event known as “stoning the devil,” that takes place about two miles from Mecca. The ritual involves crowds of people who throw stones at three pillars, representing the Prophet Abraham stoning the devil to resist temptation.
The crowd was walking toward a pillar on Thursday morning when the crowd suddenly surged, leaving hundreds of people trampled in the stampede.
Thousands of emergency workers are flooding to the area, and more than 200 ambulances to respond to the vast number of injuries.
“We have a stampede accident in Mina, and civil defense is dealing with it,” Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesman, told CNN.
This is not the first time the ceremony has turned tragic. In 1990, another stampede took place, leaving more than 1,400 people dead.
There have been other tragedies in recent years, including a crush in 2004 that left 244 people dead and another stampede in 2001 that killed 35 people. The event has seen other tragedies as well, including a building collapse in 2006 at a hostel that left 73 people dead.
Some of the people witnessing the Mecca stampede have posted videos, including the aftermath that showed hundreds of bodies strewn across the road.
[Warning: Some of the video contains disturbing images]
— hicham messaoudi (@prohicham) September 24, 2015
Where the stampede took place. Plz follow updates on http://t.co/GgLg8siUOO pic.twitter.com/UprkxcaAk5 — Basma Atassi | بسمة (@Basma_) September 24, 2015
The situation could still grow worse, Al Jazeera’s Omar al-Saleh reported.
“This is only the initial number… The Hajj season was already overshadowed by the crane accident that killed 107 people and wounded more than 200,” Alsaleh said.
“The area has turned to a big massive construction site to allow more pilgrims to visit Mecca during Hajj.
“Mina has more than 160,000 tents divided over several camps, and with the 1.9 million people taking part in this year’s Hajj, you will understand the logistical nightmare that the Saudi authorities are facing.
“I’ve seen some footage and it’s really sad. I’ve seen piles of bodies on top of each other.”
The official death toll of the Mecca stampede stood at 717 by Thursday morning, but as the video and pictures show, it could still rise by several hundred more.
[Image via Twitter/Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense]