Eighteen Indians have died in the haj stampede in the holy city of Mecca that killed over 800 people.
“18 Indian Hajis have now been confirmed dead,” said ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
At least 863 others were injured in the incident during the stampede that took place when pilgrims were on their way to perform the “stoning of the devil” ritual in the holy city in Saudi Arabia, agency reports said.
The number of Indians dead in the accident rose sharply from the initial four after New Delhi rushed aide workers to help local authorities in the identification process.
Eleven Indians had died around two weeks earlier when a massive crane fell in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing over 100 people and injuring over 200.
Thursday’s disaster was the worst to occur at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel near Mecca. Both incidents occurred on Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Islam’s most important feast.
The haj, the world’s largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past, but their frequency has been greatly reduced in recent years as the government spent billions of dollars upgrading and expanding haj infrastructure and crowd control technology.
Helpline numbers released by Government of India: 00966125458000, 00966125496000 Toll free number for pilgrims in Kingdom: 8002477786