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Saudi :Saudi officials now say at least 717 people are dead and 863 others were injured in a stampede near Mecca.The Saudi Civil Defense Directorate said on Twitter that 4,000 emergency personnel and more than 220 emergency and rescue teams were sent to the scene of the stampede. Al Arabiya, the Saudi-owned Arabic language broadcaster, reported that the injured were taken to four hospitals in Mina; some were flown by helicopter to Mecca, which is a few miles away.Millions of Muslims are participating in the Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. Al Arabiya reports the stampede occurred in the city of Mina at the entrance to the Jamarat Bridge at about 9 a.m. local time. The bridge is where the “stoning of the devil,” one of the last major rites of the Hajj is performed.In a statement, the Saudi Civil Defense Directorate said the stampede occurred after a “sudden increase” in the number of pilgrims to the pillars where the rite is performed, resulting “in a stampede among the pilgrims and the collapse of a large number of them.”Khaled al-Falih, the Saudi health minister, said pilgrims had failed to follow directions.“Many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables,” he said. “If the pilgrims had followed instructions, this type of accident could have been avoided.”The deaths come less than two weeks after a crane collapse at Mecca’s Grand Mosque killed 109 people and injured about 400 others.
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