Hajj stampede: 'No indication' British pilgrims killed as diplomats claim death toll could reach 1,100

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed no deaths and the Council of British Hajjis says it has no one has been officially reported missing

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As foreign diplomats claim the death toll from the Hajj stampede could be hundreds higher than stated by Saudi authorities, hopes are growing that British pilgrims escaped the tragedy.

There are fears that up to 1,100 people may have died in the crush on Thursday but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has still not announced that any victims were from the UK.

“At this stage, we don’t have any indication of British nationals’ involvement,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

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Muslim pilgrims and rescuers gather around people who were crushed by overcrowding in Mina, Saudi Arabia during the annual hajj pilgrimage

Staff were flown out to Saudi Arabia to comb hospitals, morgues and hotels as diplomats worked with local authorities and a helpline was set up for concerned relatives.

The Council of British Hajjis (CBH), which supports pilgrims from the UK, was one of the groups working to trace anyone unaccounted for.

Rashid Mogradia, the chief executive, said today that none of the 20,000 Brits visiting Mecca had been officially reported missing.

He joined calls for an international safety training programme on how to avoid potential crowd hazards when joining the 2 million people converging on the holy city of Mecca every year.

“Every country needs to take responsible for its pilgrims to ensure training is concluded as part of the pilgrimage visa application prior to departure,” Mr Mogradia told The Independent.

“It would not be effective if we trained British pilgrims and other nations did not.”

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The CBH said that if the FCO cannot have a team based in Mecca for the duration of the Hajj, it is prepared to fund its own group of medics, crowd management specialists and volunteers to help British pilgrims.

Mr Mogradia said: “Having a British presence would help communications amongst the pilgrims, tour operators, the FCO and to families and friends back home, who were extremely worried as the tragic incidents unfolded.”

Indonesia became the latest country to criticise Saudi Arabia’s response to the disaster on Tuesday, claiming that its diplomats only received full access to the dead and injured days after the crush. 

The Saudi Health Ministry's latest figures put the toll at 769 people killed and 934 injured, but diplomats in Indonesia, India and Pakistan say they were handed around 1,100 photos of the dead.

Survivors of the disaster claimed roads near the Jamaraat Bridge were closed in Mina, possibly for a royal convoy, forcing two columns of thousands of people to clash on Street 204.

Witnesses told how the crowding caused people to suffocate and eventually trample one another in the worst disaster to befall the annual pilgrimage in 25 years.

It came less than a fortnight after a crane crashed down on to Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing at least 111 people. 

Additional reporting by AP