A stampede broke out during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season, in which Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca, killing over 700 people and injuring nearly 1,000, in Saudi Arabia.
CNN reports that the stampede occurred Thursday morning in Mina, a tent city 2 miles from the holy city of Mecca. The ritual, known as “stoning the devil” is a tradition in which individuals throw stones at three pillars as a re-enactment of the Prophet Abraham stoning the devil, in an effort to reject his temptations.
Hundreds have previously been killed during the ceremony. This stampede, however, is the largest disaster to occur in Mina since 1990, when nearly 1,500 people died.
There have been 717 confirmed fatalities, but the number is rising, defense attorneys say. 4,400 workers have been deployed to assist with rescue efforts.
The stampede occurred around 9 am when the crowd suddenly surged, for an unknown reason, causing a large number of pilgrims to fall.
This stampede is the second event around the Hajj season that has lead to a large loss of life. A crane crashed into the Grand Mosque, September 11th, killing 107 people. Many devout Muslims consider death during the Hajj season an entry to heaven.
This year, over 2 million Muslims are attending the Hajj pilgrimage. The Hajj, also known as the fifth pillar of Islam, is considered an obligation to all Muslims who have the means to make the journey. Many save for their entire lives to make the pilgrimage, considering it the spiritual high point of their lives.
Tragedy struck again Thursday, when a bomb went off in a Yemen mosque, killing at least 29 people attending services.