Death toll from Hajj stampede near Mecca is ‘at least 1,075,’ says foreign official

The number of people who were killed in last week’s stampede near Mecca during the annual Hajj pilgrimage is at least 1,075, according to a foreign official who witnessed the transport of bodies. 

Abba Yakubu, a Nigerian Hajj official, told the BBC on Tuesday that he had been to the Saudi port city of Jeddah where the dead from Thursday’s stampede are being processed. He said that 14 trucks had been used to transport the bodies to Jeddah, where 1,075 bodies have been offloaded so far to be taken into morgues. Four of the trucks have yet to be processed, he said, suggesting that the death toll is likely to increase significantly.

Foreign officials from countries such as Pakistan and Iran have suggested for days that the actual death toll from the disaster is significantly higher than the 769 deaths reported by the Saudi government. Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted on Sunday that the Indian government had received photos of 1,090 victims for identification purposes, but the minister did not address the possibility that some victims had multiple photos taken.

Earlier on Tuesday, a news release appeared on an old Saudi Ministry of Health website that announced the deaths of 4,173 pilgrims, but the website was soon taken down amid reports that the message was posted by a hacker. A subsequent tweet from the ministry said there was “no truth” to reports claiming that more than 4,000 people had been killed, but the tweet did not address the comments from foreign officials, who have suggested figures below 4,000.