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Four Chinese among haj stampede fatalities; 362 died
By admin on 2014-12-01

Four Chinese Muslim pilgrims were killed and four others were slightly injured in a haj stampede in Saudi Arabia that claimed lives of 362 people on Thursday.

All the injured have been discharged from hospital, said Chang Yi, head of China's Consulate-General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's largest port city.

He told China Daily on Friday that two Chinese were still missing.

President Hu Jintao sent a message of condolence on Friday to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz over the heavy casualties the stampede caused in the holy city of Mecca.

In the message, Hu, on behalf of the Chinese Government and people, offered sincere sympathies to the king, the Saudi Government and its people.

The stampede occurred during a stoning ritual near Mecca. Nearly 300 people were also injured, according to initial statistics of Saudi health agencies.

After learning of Chinese citizens killed and injured in the stampede, Hu instructed relevant Chinese departments as well as the Chinese embassy and consulate in Saudi Arabia to take measures to help the injured Chinese citizens and properly handle the aftermath.

The four Chinese victims include three men, aged 59 to 63, and one woman, aged 50. They were all from Northwest China's Qinghai Province, where 1,200 Muslims were on their pilgrimage.

According to Chang, more than 7,000 Chinese pilgrims from all over the country were taking part in the annual haj, a record high.

Sources with the religious council in Qinghai Province told China Daily that they had been informed of the tragedy and were helping with the aftermath.

The Chinese diplomatic mission and Islamic religious associations are working with the Saudi Government to handle the funerals.

According to Islamic tradition, the victims will be buried locally. "It is a Muslim's greatest wish to be buried in the sacred place of Mecca," Chang said.

He said the Chinese pilgrims would start to go back home on Saturday.

About 2.5 million pilgrims from all over the world attended this year's haj, which ended on Thursday.

Although Saudi Arabia blamed unruly pilgrims on Friday for the crush, many Muslims said better security could have prevented the worst disaster to befall the ritual in 16 years.

The pilgrims were crushed on the last day of the haj at the disaster-prone Jamarat Bridge in Mina, a narrow valley, as they jostled to perform a stoning ritual in the early afternoon.

"The state has made every effort and done everything it should," the kingdom's top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, said on state television, accusing pilgrims of being disorderly.

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, the kingdom's interior minister, also blamed pilgrims who defied the rules and carried their belongings with them and ignored advice to perform the ritual throughout the day.

Many pilgrims insist on following the prophet Mohammad's example of stoning after noon prayers instead of staggering the ritual throughout the day as some clerics recommend. 

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