Tuesday, October 20

Hajj death tally skyrockets from 769 to 2,177. Saudis still stonewalling.

Many if not most news organizations describe the disaster as being caused by a stampede and/or "crush."  I have a vague recollection of seeing one report in which someone who was caught in the crush saying later that she was having trouble breathing or people near her were having trouble. 

In light of the latest death tally, I'm beginning to wonder how many of the deaths were from trampling and how many from suffocation when trampling wasn't a factor. If the latter number is high, that might suggest zero or very poor crowd management even before a specific incident triggered a stampede. And if people started fainting or keeling over dead from suffocation, that would have been the trigger, I should think.         

The Associated Press has been doing a public service by collecting estimates of death tolls of nationals that are provided by individual governments.  On October 14 AP reported the tally was at least 1,621 people, with hundreds still reportedly still missing. 
... The Associated Press count is more than double Saudi Arabia’s official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca. Saudi officials have not updated their tally since Sept. 26. 
Officials in the Saudi health and interior ministries have not responded to recent AP requests for comment. ...  The AP figure comes from state media reports and officials’ comments from 19 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the five-day annual pilgrimage. 
Then on October 20, another shocker from AP:
The crush and stampede that struck the hajj last month in Saudi Arabia killed at least 2,177 pilgrims, a new Associated Press tally showed Monday, after officials in the kingdom met to discuss the tragedy.
The toll keeps rising from the Sept. 24 disaster outside Mecca as individual countries identify bodies and work to determine the whereabouts of hundreds of pilgrims still missing. [...]
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz, who is also the kingdom's interior minister, oversaw a meeting late Sunday about the disaster in Mina, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The agency's report did not mention any official response to the rising death toll. ...
The AP count of the dead from the Mina crush and stampede comes from state media reports and officials' comments from 30 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the hajj.
Iran leads all the affected countries, saying it had 465 pilgrims killed. Many of the dead also came from Africa. Mali said it lost 254 people, while Nigeria lost 199, Cameroon lost 76, Niger lost 72, Senegal lost 61, and Ivory Coast and Benin both lost 52.
Others include Egypt with 182, Bangladesh with 137, Indonesia with 126, India with 116, Pakistan with 102, Ethiopia with 47, Chad with 43, Morocco with 36, Algeria with 33, Sudan with 30, Burkina Faso with 22, Tanzania with 20, Somalia with 10, Kenya with eight, Ghana and Turkey with seven, Myanmar and Libya with six, China with four, Afghanistan with two and Jordan and Malaysia with one.
The previous deadliest-ever incident at hajj was a 1990 stampede that killed 1,426 people.
To return to the October 14 report:
On Sunday, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal rejected the idea of sharing the administration of the hajj with other Muslim nations, raised by regional rival Iran, saying Riyadh considers it both “a matter of sovereignty” and a “privilege.”
The Saudi officials haven't simply been silent about the rising death tally. The BBC reported on September 29 that they issued a denial:
Saudi officials have denied reports that more than 1,000 people were killed in a stampede near Mecca last week while undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage.
A Nigerian official told the BBC the bodies of 1,075 victims had been taken to mortuaries in the city of Jeddah -- higher than the official toll of 769.
Other countries also said they had been sent the photos of some 1,090 bodies.
But the Saudi officials said the photos included unidentified people who died at the Hajj - not just in the stampede.
Spokesman Maj Gen Mansour al-Turki told the Associated Press that some were foreign nationals who lived in Saudi Arabia and carried out the Hajj without the required permits. ...
As to how the Ummah is responding to the stonewalling from Riyadh, I'd guess that Saudi officials have been papering the bereaved and governments in affected Muslim countries with hush money.  

Some support for this idea comes from a website called ABNA, a news agency directed to Shiite Muslims worldwide.  I'll stick with the AP tally rather than ABNA's (more than 4,000 dead, 2,000 injured).  But I found this part of a September 30 report from the agency to be interesting:
Pakistan is among those nations who have lost the largest number of nationals in the Thursday stampede, and Islamabad’s leniency towards Saudi Arabia over the Mina crush has angered the Pakistani people.
Reports from Pakistani media and journalists on Monday revealed that the country’s intelligence body, ISI, has issued serious warnings to all the country’s media outlets to avoid conducting interviews with pilgrims and their families about the lethal incidents in Mecca this year or releasing figures of those who have lost their lives or gone missing in the stampede.
A Pakistani citizen has also filed a complaint against the Islamabad government for not declaring true figures of the Pakistani nationals who have died or gone missing in the Thursday stampede in Mina near Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Mahmoud Akhtar Naghavi has sued 14 senior Pakistani officials, including prime minister and religious affairs minister, for not providing accurate information on the number of the Pakistanis killed in Mina, the Urdu-language Express newspaper reported on Monday.
“The (Pakistani) government is duty-bound to publish a list of the names and the real number of the victims and the missing Hajj pilgrims in order to remove concerns among the families of the pilgrims,” the daily quoted Naghavi as saying.

On the other hand, I note the AP October 19 report reflects a big jump from the October 14 one in the number of governments that were willing to go on the record with Hajj death tallies in their countries (from 19 to over 30).  So, hush money or no, governments in the worst affected countries might be under increasing pressure from their citizens to acknowledge the true death toll.  


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