Perhaps when a crane fell on the Grand Mosque in Mecca on September 11, resulting in over 87 deaths, following what some said was lightning striking, perhaps it was indeed a sign.
Overnight, while the western world was following every twist of the Pope's visit to the US and the spreading impact Germany's "Diesel Swan", the Muslim world was again focused on Mecca where the first day of the Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest holidays in the Muslim calendar took place when millions of Muslims make their pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca.
Today is the day of Arafah which Muslims worldwide will be celebrating. Hajj Mubarak for all the Pilgrims. pic.twitter.com/fuDmAOW4Tx— Historical Pics (@HistoricalPics) September 23, 2015
And like on many previous occasions, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca once again led to a tragic loss of life in what may be the deadliest stampede in pilgiramge history when at least 717 people died and another 805 were injured.
According to the NYT, the deaths occurred around 9 a.m., on the first day of Eid al-Adha, as millions of Muslims were making their pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. The accident took place at the intersection of two roads in Mina, causing many to fall and others to panic, according to Saudi Arabia’s civil defense directorate.
BBC adds that the incident happened when there was a "sudden increase" in the number of pilgrims heading towards pillars, the statement said.
This "resulted in a stampede among the pilgrims and the collapse of a large number of them", it added.
Security personnel and the Saudi Red Crescent were "immediately" deployed to prevent more people heading towards the area, the directorate said.
What is perplexing is that while today's may be the most bloody stampede in hajj history, it will merely be the latest in a long series of tragic events which seemingly lead to absolutely no change whatsoever. The following is a list from the Daily Sabah listing the history of deadly hajj events over the years.
- September 24: A stampede during the "stoning of the devil" ritual in Mina, near Mecca, leaves at least 453 people dead and 719 injured.
- September 11: 109 people are killed and hundreds injured, including many foreigners, when a crane collapses on Mecca's Grand Mosque after strong winds and heavy rain.
- January 6: 76 people die when a hotel collapses in the city center.
- January 12: 364 pilgrims are killed in a stampede during the stoning ritual in Mina.
- January 22: Three pilgrims are crushed to death in a stampede at the stoning ceremony in Mina.
- February 1: 251 people are killed in a stampede at Mina.
- February 11: 14 faithful, including six women, die on the first day of the stoning ritual.
- March 5: 35 pilgrims, including 23 women, die at the ritual in Mina.
- April 9: More than 118 people are killed and 180 injured in a stampede at Mina.
- April 15: A fire caused by a gas stove rips through a camp housing pilgrims at Mina, killing 343 and injuring around 1,500.
- May 7: Three people die and 99 are injured when a fire breaks out at the Mina camp.
- May 24: 270 people are killed in a stampede during the stoning, an incident authorities attribute to "record numbers" of pilgrims at the site.
* * *
Which brings us to today, when the at least 453 dead is one of the largest stampede death tolls in hajj history, which already may have found a scapegoat: according to Al Jazeera, the head of Central Hajj Committee Prince Khaled al-Faisal blamed the stampede on "some pilgrims from African nationalities.
Of course, it had nothing to do with the organizers repeating the same mistakes over and over and never actually learning.
Meanwhile, this is how the tragedy looked through the lens of Twitter:
Video: Pilgrims redirected to alternative roads, after stampede near Mecca. 453 pilgrims died, 719 injured pic.twitter.com/u6gdz1FqWs— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) September 24, 2015
The number of people killed in a stampede outside Mecca has risen to 310, Saudi authorities say https://t.co/zdXIkQmkMj— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 24, 2015