Iran nearly doubles its death toll from Hajj stampede

Iran's Hajj organisation says 464 Iranian pilgrims died in last week's stampede near Mecca that left 769 people dead.

    Iran's state television initially reported that at least 239 Iranian pilgrims died, while over 200 people were missing [AP]
    Iran's state television initially reported that at least 239 Iranian pilgrims died, while over 200 people were missing [AP]

    Iran has nearly doubled its death toll from last week's Hajj stampede to 464, saying there was no hope of finding pilgrims missing in the wake of the tragedy.

    "Seven days after this tragic accident... the status of all (pilgrims) injured has been completely cleared and reported," Iran's Hajj organisation said in a statement carried by state television on Thursday.

    Around 240 Iranians were previously declared dead after last Thursday's crush near Mecca, with more than 200 classified as missing.

    An Iranian Red Crescent official said on Thursday that those missing were all likely to have died.

    "We are completely disappointed from finding unknown and missing Iranians," said Ali Marashi, the head of Hajj Red Crescent medical centre, state media reported.

    Meanwhile, Saudi and Iranian health ministers have agreed after days of fierce debate to repatriate dead Iranian pilgrims.

    Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Health Minister Hassan Hashemi as saying that he and his Saudi counterpart Khaled al-Falih had struck a deal aimed at "speeding up the process, as the victims' families are waiting" back at home.

    Those unidentified bodies who are clearly Iranian would be repatriated first and identified at home, he told AFP news agency.

    Saudi Arabia has said that 769 pilgrims died in the stampede - the worst disaster to strike the annual Muslim pilgrimage in a quarter-century. Authorities in oil-rich kingdom said they were investigating what caused the stampede.

    Shia power Iran has blamed its Sunni archival Saudi Arabia for the disaster, saying its "incompetence" and "mismanagement" caused the death of pilgrims, who were suffocated or trampled to death.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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