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More than 700 Crushed to Death Near Mecca

A pilgrim is treated by a medic after a stampede that killed and injured pilgrims in the holy city of Mina during the annual hajj pilgrimage, Sept.24. The image was posted on the official Twitter account of the directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense agency.
More than 700 Crushed to Death Near Mecca
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More than 700 people were crushed to death Thursday near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in a stampede.

More than 800 others were injured. The victims were part of the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, which began Tuesday.

Saudi officials say the stampede happened in Mina, about five kilometers from Mecca. Hajj pilgrims go to Mina to throw rocks at three stone walls that represent evil. It is the final part of the Hajj ritual before the yearly Eid al-Adha religious observance. The pilgrims also spend the night at Mina. The area has more than 160,000 tents for the visitors.

The Saudi Arabian civil defense department reported the number of dead and injured on the social media website Twitter.

Fire at the Hajj in 1997.
Fire at the Hajj in 1997.

There have been several deadly stampedes at the Hajj during the past 25 years. Huge numbers of people gather for the five-day-long event. This year, 2 million pilgrims are taking part. All Muslims are required to go on the Hajj at least once, if they are able.

Last year, Saudi Arabia reduced the number of pilgrims because of concerns about safety.

The worst Hajj stampede happened 25 years ago inside a tunnel in Mina. More than 1,400 people were killed. Stampedes in three other years -- 1994, 2004 and 2006 -- each killed more than 200 people.

Mideast Saudi Crane Collapse
Mideast Saudi Crane Collapse

Earlier this month, a construction crane collapsed during Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Workers had been expanding the mosque. More than 100 people were killed and more than 200 others injured. Officials said high winds during a rainstorm caused the crane to collapse. The machine had reportedly been operating at the construction project for three or four years.

The Grand Mosque is Islam’s holiest site. It is among the largest religious centers in the world and has millions of visitors every year.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA’s Chris Hannas reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

stampede – n. an event in which a large group of frightened or excited animals or people run together in a wild and uncontrolled way to escape from something

Hajj – n. a visit to Mecca that is a religious duty for Muslims

pilgrimage – n. a trip to a holy place

ritual – n. an official ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way

tent – n. a shelter that is used outdoors, and usually made of cloth

tunnel – n. a passage that goes under the ground or through a hill

construction – adj. related to the development or repair of buildings or other structures

crane – n. a big machine with a long arm that is used by builders for lifting and moving heavy things

mosque – n. a building that is used for Muslim religious services

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