Haj stampede: Indian toll rises to 22

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) Eight more deaths of Indian Haj pilgrims were announced by the government on Saturday, taking the toll to 22 in Thursday’s tragedy near Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

The number of deaths going up was not ruled out with more bodies yet to be identified.

In the latest announcement, made on Saturday evening, two Haj pilgrims from Kerala, and one each from Jharkhand and Karnataka were reported killed in the crush on Thursday in Mina, that has left at least 767 people dead.

Thirteen Indians were among the over 800 injured.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “The number of Indian lives lost in Haj stampede has now risen to 22. Some more bodies are to be identified.”

“We are facilitating visits of relatives of missing pilgrims and tour operators to the complex for identification,” she said.

The two pilgrims from Kerala were identified as Zulfiqar Abdul Khalam and Sajeev Habib, the one from Karnataka as Abdul Ghafoor Kamal and the one from Jharkhand as Mohammed Yasin Miyan.

The toll till Friday was 14.

On Saturday morning, the external affairs ministry had announced four more deaths of Indian pilgrims, taking the toll to 18.

“Our mission is working with Saudi authorities and family members to confirm the identities of the deceased and expedite the formalities for release of the mortal remains,” ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a statement.

Of the four dead reported on Saturday morning, two were from Gujarat and one each from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

The pilgrims from Gujarat were Hafijabahen Satarsha Diwan and Syed Abdul Hussain. The pilgrim from Jharkhand was Rasul Ali, and from Uttar Pradesh, Moinuddin.

According to the list of 14 dead announced on Friday, nine were from Gujarat, while two each belonged to Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu and one was from Maharashtra.

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