Last week 362 pilgrims were crushed by crowds during a Hajj pilgrimage ritual. Over 2.5 million Moslem pilgrims had crowded into Mina, east of Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The stampede occured in a the crowd of almost a million people trying to throw stones at three pillars that symbolize the devil. Apparently it’s important to throw your stones right after afternoon prayers. Maybe the devil keeps limited office hours.
You know, I’d be a bit reluctant to participate in a religious ceremony if there was a good chance I might get killed just for attending. That’s another reason I never got into snake handling.
But experts say the sheer scale of the stoning ritual makes it inherently dangerous. “There’s a huge risk and potential for accidents whenever you have so many people in a tightly confined space,” says Keith Still, an expert on crowd behaviour … “There’s a limit to what can be done.”
I suppose officials should be happy the death toll was not worse. Over 250 people were killed in a stampede two years ago, and in 1990, 1462 pilgrims were crushed at the site. Similar stampedes occured in 1997 and 1998.