A huge stampede killed at least 717 people and injured hundreds more at the hajj in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, in one of the worst-ever tragedies at the annual Muslim pilgrimage.
The stampede, the second deadly accident to hit the pilgrims this month following a crane collapse in Mecca, broke out during the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, the Saudi civil defence service said.
Bodies of pilgrims wearing traditional white clothing were left scattered by the crush, surrounded by discarded shoes, flattened water bottles and umbrellas that had been used for protection from the sun.
The civil defence service said that it was still counting the dead, who included pilgrims from different countries, and that at least 863 people had also been hurt.
Nearly two million people from across the globe were attending the hajj, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world.
Iran said at least 43 of its citizens were dead and accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors that caused the accident.
But a Saudi minister blamed the pilgrims themselves, saying they had not followed the rules laid out by authorities.
“Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” set for the hajj, Health Minister Khaled al-Falih told El-Ekhbariya television.
“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided,” he said, vowing a “rapid and transparent” investigation.