Saudi King Salman orders a review of the kingdom's plans for the annual haj pilgrimage after more than 700 died in a crush outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Saudi King Salman said he had ordered a review of the kingdom's plans for the annual haj pilgrimage after more than 700 died in a crush outside the Muslim holy city of Mecca on Thursday (September 24). King Salman, speaking in a live speech broadcast by Saudi-owned al-Arabiya television, also said he had asked for a swift investigation into what he described as a painful incident. At least 863 others were injured during the disaster, in which two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, on their way to performing the "stoning of the devil" ritual at Jamarat. Thursday's disaster was the worst to occur at the pilgrimage since July 1990, when 1,426 pilgrims suffocated in a tunnel near Mecca. Both incidents occurred on Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), Islam's most important feast and the day of the stoning ritual. Photographs published on the Twitter feed of Saudi civil defence on Thursday showed pilgrims lying on stretchers while emergency workers in high-visibility jackets lifted them into an ambulance. Other images showed bodies of men in white haj garments piled on top of each other. Some corpses bore visible injuries. The haj, the world's largest annual gathering of people, has been the scene of numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past, but their frequency has been greatly reduced in recent years as the government spent billions of dollars upgrading and expanding haj infrastructure and crowd control technology. Safety during haj is a politically sensitive issue for the kingdom's ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself internationally as the guardian of orthodox Islam and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.