I've never heard of any deaths of christians exiting churches after significant religious holidays.....
What's wrong with these people ?!?
MSNBC News Services
Updated: 11:40 a.m. ET Jan. 12, 2006
MECCA, Saudi Arabia - Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual during the hajj tripped over luggage Thursday, causing a crush in which at least 345 people were killed, the Interior Ministry said.
The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said 345 people were killed. Dr. Abbasi, a Red Crescent doctor at the scene, put the number of injured at 1,000.
Footage from the scene showed lines of bodies laid out on stretchers on the pavement and covered with sheets
. Ahmed Mustafa, an Egyptian pilgrim, said he saw bodies taken away in refrigerator trucks.
An Egyptian pilgrim, Suad Abu Hamada, heard screaming and “saw people jumping over each other.
“The bodies were piled up. I couldn’t count them, they were too many,” he said.
State-run Saudi television Al-Ekhbariyah reported that most of the victims were from South Asia.Luggage fell from buses
The stampede happened as pilgrims were rushing to complete the last of three days of the stoning ritual before sunset, al-Turki said. Some of the pilgrims began to trip over dropped luggage, causing a large pileup, he said. Many pilgrims carry their personal effects with them as they move between the various stages of the hajj.
The site is a notorious bottleneck for the massive crowds that attend the hajj pilgrimage and has seen deadly stampedes in the past, including one in 1990 that killed 1,426 people and another in February 2004 that killed 244.
This year’s hajj was marred by the Jan. 5 collapse of a building being used as a pilgrims’ hotel that killed 76 people in Mecca.
The pillars are located on a large pedestrian bridge, the width of an eight-lane highway over the desert plain of Mina outside the holy city of Mecca. A number of ramps lead up the bridge to give pilgrims access to the site, and the stampede occurred at the base of one ramp.Construction proves ineffective
Mina General Hospital, a small facility several hundred yards from the site, was filled with injured, and some victims were sent to hospitals in Mecca and Riyadh, said Ismail Abdul-Zaher, a doctor at the hospital.
Ambulances and police cars streamed into the area, and security forces tried to move pilgrims away from part of the site, though thousands continued with the ritual.
The stampede took place despite Saudi efforts to improve traffic at the site, where all 2.5 million pilgrims participating in the annual hajj move from pillar to pillar to throw their stones, then exit.
Saudi authorities replaced the small round pillars with short walls to allow more people to throw their stones without jostling for position. They also recently widened the bridge, built extra ramps and increased the time pilgrims can carry out the rite — which on the second and final days traditionally takes place from midday until sunset.Early morning versus midday
Shiite Muslim clerics have issued religious edicts allowing pilgrims to start the ritual in the morning, and many Shiites from Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon and Pakistan took advantage to go early in the day.
“This is much better. We are now done with the stoning before the crowd gets larger,” an Iranian pilgrim, Azghar Meshadi, said hours before the stampede.
But Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim clerics, who follow the fundamentalist Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, encouraged pilgrims to stick to the midday rule.
The stoning ritual is one of the last events of the hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest sites, which able-bodied Muslims with the financial means are required by their faith to do at least once.
Many pilgrims had already finished the stoning ritual Thursday and had gone back to Mecca to carry out a farewell circuit around the Kaaba, the black stone cube that Muslims face when they do their daily prayers.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this article.