Saudi Arabia’s health minister blamed undisciplined pilgrims for the deadly stampede Thursday during the haj, saying the tragedy would not have occurred if they “had followed instructions”.
The tragedy, the deadliest in more than two decades, took place in Mina, a large valley about five kilometers (three miles) from the holy city of Mecca that has been the site of haj stampedes in years past.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had converged on Mina to throw pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan, the ritual that marks the last day of the haj.
The stampede occurred in a morning surge of pilgrims at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns, according to the Saudi civil defence directorate.
Health minister Khalid al-Falih was quoted by El-Ekhbariya television as saying “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities, which was the “principal reason for this type of accident.”
“If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”