Death toll in hajj crush rises to 769: Saudi health minister

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DUBAI: The death toll in a crush outside the holy city of Makkah on Thursday has risen to 769, Saudi Health Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Saturday.

“The latest statistics up to this hour reveal 769 dead. That is an increase of 52 on the previous figures,” Falih told a news conference.

“Those are the ones who died in various hospitals since the event,” he said, adding that 934 people were wounded.

Meanwhile, in comments carried late Friday by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the chairman of the Shura Council, an appointed body that advises the Saudi government, called on citizens and Muslims to ignore “the biased campaigns carried out by the enemies of this pure country, to question the great efforts exerted by the Kingdom to serve the holy sites, their construction and expansion, and to serve the visitors and pilgrims.”

He was responding to fierce criticism of the Saudi authorities’ handling of safety, following the the stampede that killed more than 700 pilgrims, the worst disaster in a quarter-century to strike the annual event.

Abdullah al Sheikh stressed that pilgrims must stick to “the rules and regulations taken by the security personnel… In doing so they protect their lives, their security and facilitate their performing of the rituals.”

Health Minister Khaled al Falih earlier made similar remarks that faulted the worshippers.

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