Saudi Arabia Stampede Update: Death Toll Continues To Rise Alarmingly – Are Officials Liable For Prosecution?

The deadly stampede in Saudi Arabia continues to claim more lives. The death toll rose steadily on the third day since its occurrence and may soon cross 800, as many of the victims who were injured in the stampede, are still in critical condition.

In what could be considered one of the worst non-natural, non-military calamities to affect human civilization, the death toll resulting from the stampede at the annual hajj pilgrimage outside Mecca, rose to 769, confirmed Saudi Arabia officials. While the officials have yet to declare the nationalities of those killed or injured, countries across the world are trying to get an accurate number of how many of its citizens were among the deceased.

Even as countries try to come to terms with the loss of innocent citizens in the stampede, Iran’s Supreme Leader has lashed out at host nation Saudi Arabia, reports CNN. Demanding the concerned officials take responsibility of the incident, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made the following statement.

“Saudi rulers instead of shunning (responsibility) must accept their responsibility in this grave incident by apologizing to the Muslim Ummah and bereft families.”

Iran is justifiably upset because not only did the country just lose 136 citizens, but over 300 Iranians, including former ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Roknabadi, continue to remain unaccounted for. There has been a lot of unrest and protests in the streets about the alleged callous handling of the huge crowd at the holy site. Not stopping at demanding an apology, Iran’s Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raisi has stressed that the concerned officials should be tried for their “crimes,” reports MSN.

“This is not incompetence, it’s a crime. We will urge international courts and circles to start the trial of the Saudis for their crimes against hajj pilgrims.”

The incident occurred a few kilometers outside the holy city, at a crossroad in Mina. Though Saudi Arabia officials have been managing groups of hundreds of thousands that throng to the holy city every year, the rush to move from the place of worship, to the pillars to pelt stones, is overwhelming. Under normal circumstances, officials manage the crowds by segregating them in groups and then controlling the flow. However, two large groups of pilgrims somehow ended up at a crossroads, leading to the stampede.

Saudi officials have launched an official investigation into the catastrophe. However, such incidents, albeit with a lot less number of injuries, are common every year, as hundreds of newcomers are jostled by the crowds who are already facing exhaustion due to the extreme heat. Moreover, the fervent spirit of completing the rituals often results in crowds moving in opposite directions. Many are often caught in the resulting human tidal wave.

Though such incidents are common, this year’s toll was abnormally high and could still rise. Speaking about the rising death toll, Saudi health minister Khalid al-Falih has made the following statement.

“The latest statistics up to this hour reveal 769 dead. That is an increase of 52 on the previous figures. Those are the ones who died in various hospitals since the event.”

The death toll could climb higher, because as of this writing the official tally of the wounded is 934. Many other nations, who lost their citizens, are still trying to come to terms with the loss. Could this stampede bring about changes in the way Saudi Arabia manages pilgrims at hajj?

[Photo by Mohammed Al-Shaikh/Getty Images]