Hajj stoning ritual to be shortened: Saudi officials

Riyadh, Aug 24 (IANS) In the wake of last year’s Hajj stampede tragedy that killed hundreds of pilgrims, Saudi Arabia authorities have cut short the stoning ritual period by 12 hours, a media report said.

The symbolic stoning of the devil will be performed as usual over three days beginning September 11 at Mina, about five kilometres east of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site.

According to the ministry, during the first day of the ritual, there will be no stoning allowed from 6 a.m. to 10.30 a.m while on the second day, the ban will be from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. and on the third and final day, it will be from 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The new regulations were put in place during a meeting held by the Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey, Europe, Americas and Australia to discuss the stoning timetable with Husain Al-Sharif, the ministry’s undersecretary, and a number of officials and experts, Arab News reported.

Sharif said the total capacity of the Jamarat area and the roads leading to it is 3,00,000 pilgrims per hour.

He said the grouping of pilgrims will be electronically monitored to prevent any violations.

“This procedure will enable the pilgrims to throw stones easily and will prevent any stampede that may result from overcrowding,” he added.

The ministry has also prepared 18,000 buses to transport about 1.5 million foreign pilgrims. The fleet also includes 1,696 brand new cars.

The stampede last year, the worst disaster in Hajj history, occurred outside the five-storey Jamarat Bridge, a structure resembling a huge parking garage which hosts the stoning ritual and cost more than $1 billion to build.

At least 2,297 pilgrims died during the stampede on September 24, according to data from foreign officials. Saudi Arabia issued a death toll of 769.

–IANS

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