Hajj stampede: Survivors’ accounts and pangs of separation
Morocco and Iran suffered the highest death tolls. Media reports place Moroccan deaths at 87 while Iranian officials said 131 Iranians died
Atif Abdul Qadir, a 75-year-old Egyptian pilgrim, insisted to mourn his wife in Mina where she died on Thursday during the stampede.
“I lost my life’s companion in Mina. I have to mourn her where she died,” he told Al-Hayat newspaper on Sunday.
Abdul Qadir said he searched for her in all hospitals in Mina with the hope that he would find her alive but his hopes were dashed when he saw her dead body.
He recalled that they came together to Mina in the same bus from Muzdalifah after staying the night there. “We put our luggage in the tent and went to the Jamarat hand-in-hand,” he said.
Abdul Qadir said they were taken aback when the procession suddenly halted and they saw pilgrims falling on each other in a deadly stampede.
He said he was holding his wife’s hand when she fell down. “This was the last time I saw her alive,” he added.
Abdul Qadir said he himself had bruises on various parts of his body and was certain that he would die but an unknown pilgrim pulled him out and placed him in one of the tents.
“I went back to the street where we were separated looking for her, but in vain,” he said.
Fatima Sabie, a 56-year-old Algerian woman pilgrim, made her way to the Jamrat to throw the stones for her husband Zaroue Ali, 62, who died in the stampede.
She kissed every stone before throwing it as if she were kissing her husband’s hands.
She said he himself had collected the pebbles from Muzdalifah to stone the devil and that now she was using them on his behalf.
She said they threw the stones at the Jamrat Al-Aqaba on the first day together and were on their way to the camp when they got tangled in the crowd.
“I was walking in front of him. He was holding my hand very tightly when a pilgrim caught him and they fell together on the ground. This was the last time I saw him,” she said.
Fatima said she asked him to get up several times but each time he said he could not.
“My husband disappeared when many bodies fell on him. The human waves washed me away separating me from him forever,” she said.
Fatima said she was sure that she too would die when a pilgrim grabbed her and put her on top of dead bodies.
“Though I am thankful to be alive, my heart is broken for my husband. I threw the stones on his behalf to complete the Haj rituals for him,” she said.
An Indian woman did not know that her sore feet would save her life. She complained to her husband that she was too tired to walk and her feet were paining. So he offered to pebble the devil on her behalf. But he never came back.
Her son, Ali, said his mother Noorjihan Mir has become hysterical after her husband died.
Ali said his father, Mohieddin Abdul Qadir who was 60 years old, was extremely happy to come to Haj and his happiness was greater that his wife of 25 years was accompanying him.
Ali was showing his father’s photo to everyone on the street and in Mina’s hospitals with the hope that someone would recognize him and break good news that he was alive.
“My father’s life came to an end in the most sacred of places on earth. May Allah help my mom to be strong,” he said.
From his bed at Mina Emergency Hospital, Sudanese pilgrim Ahmed Mohammed, injured on his back and leg, remembered how he was caught on the front lines of the throng.
“I felt tired, I couldn’t move,” said the 57-year-old. “I told myself that if I fall here, they will trample on me, as I had already seen people on the ground being stepped on.”
“I thought of entering a nearby camp but those guarding the surrounding tents were refusing to let anyone in... and so people started climbing over the tents,” Mohammed said.
He finally escaped into a tent housing Tunisian pilgrims where he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
“Everybody was trying to survive,” another injured pilgrim, Abbas Tijani of Nigeria, said from his bed at the same hospital.
Tijani said he fell unconscious while he tried to climb a fence to escape death as chaos unfolded.
“People were stepped on by people,” he said, recalling how there was no time to stop and care for the injured.
“Many people were on the ground, and attempting to pick them up would lead to another disaster,” he said.
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