Mina stampede: Saudi minister says undisciplined Hajj pilgrims caused accident that killed 700 people by not following instructions

Death toll stands at 717 with 863 injured after stampede in Mina, outside Mecca

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A Saudi minister has blamed a catastrophe in which more than 700 pilgrims died on undisciplined believers who failed to “follow instructions” from authorities.

Saudi Arabia’s health minister Khaled al-Falih rebutted suggestions local authorities were to blame for the worst tragedy during the religious festival of Eid in more than two decades.

As many as 717 people have been confirmed dead with 863 injured, in the worst incident during Hajj since in the 1990 tragedy when 1,422 people died.

Iran’s minister for Hajj Saeed Ohadi was among the most vocal critics of Saudi authorities.

Mr Ohadi claimed Saudi “mismanagement” and “safety errors” had led to the deaths of hundreds of pilgrims, among them a reported 41 Iranians.  

But Mr al-Falih maintained: “If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”

He told local news station El-Ekhbariya many pilgrims “move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities to ease congestion and claimed this was the “principal reason for this type of accident.”

Two million Muslims have travelled to Mecca for Eid this year. The huge numbers present an annual security and safety nightmare for the Saudis, who have attempted to cope with the increased numbers year-on-year by implementing one-way systems and improved transport links.