Death toll in Hajj stampede rises to 363

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January 13, 2006 18:54
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Some 600,000 Muslim pilgrims were squeezed in at the entrance to a holy site, four people per square meter, when some stumbled on baggage, causing a crush that killed 363 people, including at least 85 women, the Interior Ministry said Friday. Security forces intervened within minutes of the stampede starting to clear the bottleneck, ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told a press conference explaining how Thursday's deaths occured Out of 363 known dead, 203 have been identified - among them 118 men, 85 women, he said. Some 289 people were injured, but al-Turki said all but 45 have been released from the hospital. The crush took place at the main eastern ramp leading up to al-Jamarat, a giant platform where three pillars representing the devil are located. Pilgrims pelt the pillars with stones in a symbolic purging of their sins. Some 600,000 pilgrims were gathered in an area of about 140,000 square meters at the foot of the ramp at the time, al-Turki said. About a dozen pilgrims began to stumble over baggage, tripping up others behind them even as the crowds pressed forward.

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