A survivor of the stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, has narrated how he survived the incident.
Dahiru Shittu, one of the over 60,000 Nigerians attending this year’s pilgrimage, was among the thousands of people gathered in Mina for the devil stoning rite, part of the hajj activities, when the stampede occurred.
‘”We were trapped in between narrow lane with iron wall of tents on both sides of the road,” he told PREMIUM TIMES in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. “There was no way out, so people started scaling fences into tents of Algeria and other Arab countries.”
Mr. Shittu, from Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, added that “My friend and I, who were completely exhausted from the previous long distance trekking from Arafat to Muztalifa where we spent the night and set out that morning to Jamra, had no option than to step on other weaker pilgrims to survive.
“You will see mother and parents leaving their children and aged to survive. I was however, helped by an Arab man to scale the fence into a tent.
“Many male and female pilgrims dead or alive were seen naked. We that survived, had to scavenge for Ihram (white cloth) of corpses to cover our nakedness. Those of us who were alive were gasping for survival in an exhausted struggle, some of whom were later offered ice block by some volunteers.”
“An Ethiopian pilgrim abandoned his mother who became a ‘ladder’ for those who scaled through fences to survive. Many others too, were crushed to death in such a manner.”
The pilgrim lamented the security situation during the rite saying there was not enough “security around or any rescue team.”
There have been reports that the closure of two essential gate, reportedly at the instance of the Saudi Royal family who were receiving some visitors, was a major cause of the stampede, a fact Mr. Shittu elaborates.
“If the gates of those tents from both sides of the road had opened, the death toll would have been very minimal,” he said. “But the Arabs closed the gates and continued to hit the hands of any pilgrim with a metal as they attempted to scale their fences to get free air.”
The survivor, who suffered an injury on his leg, lamented the inadequate medical attention received by some survivors saying, “I did not receive any medical attention from either the Saudi, NAHCON (Nigerian officials) or Kaduna authority despite my complaints to them.”
He said he saw corpses of many Nigerians from Lagos and Sokoto whom he identified from their uniform.
“There was a woman who was carrying a baby and I am not sure if she will survive because there were so many bodies piled on top of her and the baby.”
No official figure has been announced by Nigerian authorities of the number of casualties from the country. However, Sokoto State has confirmed that at least nine of its pilgrims were killed in the stampede while Taraba has confirmed three. Saudi officials said at least 769 people were killed in the stampede while over 900 people were injured.
Lamenting his present state, Mr. Shittu said he “was completely traumatized; in fact if there is anything beyond being traumatized, that was how I felt because I thought it was the end of the world.
“But that did not discourage me from wanting to come back for Hajj again because this is part of the test of faith.”