Makkah stampede: Indian toll rises to 22

New Delhi, Sep 26 (IANS) The number of Indian Haj pilgrims killed in the stampede near Makkah in Saudi Arabia has risen to 22, the government said on Saturday.

Many bodies from the over 700 people killed were yet to be identified.

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 toll till Friday was 14. On Saturday morning, the external affairs ministry had announced the deaths of four more Indian pilgrims, taking the toll to 18.

In a statement, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said: “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.”

He said “officials on the ground have been working continuously to ascertain information and reach out to family members of missing pilgrims”.

At least 717 people have been confirmed dead as of now in Thursday’s stampede, the worst tragedy to hit the world’s holiest Muslim pilgrimage in 25 years, while over 800 are injured. The incident took place on the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice.

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