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Death toll rises to 717 in Saudi Hajj stampede

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The Saudi civil defence authority said rescue operations were under way

At least 717 people have been killed in a stampede at the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia’s civil defence directorate said, as the death toll continued to rise.

The directorate said at least 863 other pilgrims were injured in Thursday’s stampede, which took place in Mina, on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca.

The injured have been evacuated to four different hospitals in the Mina region, according to a civil defence spokesman.

Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone walls. It also houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.

Al Jazeera’s Basma Atassi, reporting from Mina, said the incident took place in a street between pilgrim camps.

“The street where it happened is named Street 204. This stampede did not happen at the site of the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual, which was happening today.

“During and after the stampede the pilgrims continued to flock into Mina to perform the devil stoning ritual.”

1987: 400 people die as Saudi authorities confront pro-Iranian demonstration

1990: 1,426 pilgrims killed in tunnel leading to holy sites

1994: 270 killed in stampede

1997: 343 pilgrims killed and 1,500 injured in fire

2006: 364 pilgrims die in a crush during the stone-throwing ritual

Since 364 people were killed during the stoning ritual in 2006, the Saudi authorities have worked on improving transport and other infrastructure in the area in an attempt try to prevent such incidents.

It is the journey that every able-bodied adult Muslim must undertake at least once in their lives if they can afford it.

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