Mecca Fire Kills Muslim Pilgrims
An accidental fire on a plain near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, killed over 400 Muslim pilgrims on April 15. The fire swept through 70,000 tents on the plain of Mina, causing a stampede.
Nearly two million pilgrims had gathered near the Islamic holy city in order to take part in the ancient ritual of hajj, or pilgrimage. Identification of the charred bodies proved especially difficult because pilgrims wear identical white robes to symbolize equality. Several deadly incidents have occurred at the hajj in the past, including a tragedy in 1990 when 1,426 pilgrims were crushed in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel. All able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are required to perform hajj at least once in their lives.
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson