Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 25th 2015 Contents RADHICA SOOKRAJ
Two hundred and forty Trinidadians who
journeyed to Mecca for Hajj have survived
yesterday's stampede which killed more than
700 people and injured 800 others in Saudi
T&T Guardian's sales executive Acklima
Mohammed and her husband Mobarak
Mohammed who are in Mecca had just per-
formed the Jamaarat ritual known as "stoning
the devil" in the tent city of Mina and had
moved to the third floor of the building, when
the stampede occurred.
Video footage provided by Mohammed
showed bodies piled upon bodies. Few were
moving. Ambulances rushed to the scene while
Muslims gawked at the pile-up of still bodies.
While international media reports said the
cause of the stampede was still being inves-
tigated, Mohammed said she believed the chaos
occurred when a group of Muslim faithfuls
tried to stone the Jamaarat at an unscheduled
"There are pilgrims who come here on a low
budget for Hajj and they camp out on the streets
or anywhere where they can get shelter. They
do not have the Saudi government's schedule
for pelting the Jamaarat. These pilgrims use
the local transport. In this case they used the
train. This train system is sort of new. When
they got out they rushed to the first floor to
pelt the Jamaarat. It was madness," she said.
Mohammed added that the building that
has the Jamaraat now has four or five levels.
"It is huge. It has huge air-conditional blowers
and many escalators. The Saudi government
spent a lot of money to make it safe,"
She added that leaders of the various Muslim
groups did a count of the 240 Trinidadians
who attended the festival and everyone was
Asked to describe the scene of the stampede,
Mohammed said, "What I saw was the hel-
icopter hovering downwards and the ambu-
lances. At first I thought nothing of it. We were
on the third floor. It was not crowded as expect-
ed. The Saudi government had a new system
in place. There was a schedule for all group
leaders and you had to be there to pelt the
Jamaraat at a certain time."
She added, " There are four to five different
entrances to enter the building. There was no
way that groups will crush into each other."
Saying the experience was a life-changing
one, Mohammed said she could not describe
in words what she felt.
"Hajj is the fifth pillar on Islam. It is to be
done once in one's lifetime. The experience
here gives you a better understanding for life.
It makes you a better person as it brings light
to what Prophet Abraham had go through from
the will to sacrifice his son Ishmael. It is an
experience that cannot be written in words. It
is life changing. I thank God that all of us are
safe," she added.
Contacted yesterday, president of the Trinidad
Muslim League Dr Nasser Mustapha said the
stampede was unfortunate.
Founder and chairman of Caribbean Hajj
Zabar Mohammed Baksh also expressed relief
at all the local Muslims were safe. He said yes-
terday's stampede occurred because a group
of "harden" pilgrims had blocked the pathway
where the Satan is stoned.
"The entire crowd had to go to one point
instead of three. Some of the pilgrims don't
listen to the authorities. They don't understand
the seriousness of the issue," Baksh said. Saying
the Saudi government should not be blamed,
Baksh said the leaders of world Muslim groups
should be encouraged to train all pilgrims and
give them certification before they are allowed
to attend Hajj.
"If they don't have the certificate, they
should not come. The Saudis have tried their
best to keep things safe. They have deployed
hundreds of thousands of troops and they have
people helping the pilgrims. The new facility
has prevented a lot of chaos. I was surprised
that this happened but maybe this is how God
wrote their ticket. They will go to heaven and
this is how things have to be," Baksh said.
He added that two groups of Trinis will
return from Hajj on Sunday while two more
groups will return in two weeks time.
See Page A19
Friday, September 25, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Both Prime Minister Dr Keith
Rowley and Opposition leader
Kamla Persad-Bissessar have
expressed their sorrow over the
hundreds of deaths during yester-
day's Hajj stampede in Mecca.
Rowley made the comments dur-
ing the Day of Prayer and Thanks-
giving, which took place at the Grand
Stand, Queen's Park Savannah on
Republic Day. (See page A6)
The PM called on all citizens to
observe this day.
Saying T&T had a lot be thankful
for Rowley also called on citizens to
be grateful for their everyday bless-
" As I left home this morning (yes-
terday) the news was that 400 per-
sons had been killed in Mecca. But
the time I got here the numbers had
risen to 700 and God knows how
many more," Rowley said.
Persad-Bissessar, who also
expressed sorrow over the incident,
said she too was saddened.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of
the tragedy that unfolded today in
Saudi Arabia resulting in the deaths
of more than 700 Muslim pilgrims,"
According to international media
reports there was a stampede during
one of the last rituals of the Hajj sea-
son that killed hundreds and injured
The fatality figure is expected to
Tragedy struck as pilgrims were
engaged in the ritual known as "ston-
ing the devil" in the tent city of Mina,
about two miles from Mecca, Islam's
Persad-Bissessar said it was always
devastating to learn of such incidents
but especially as the Muslim com-
munity celebrated Eid Al Adha,
marking the end of the Hajj.
"I pray for the families of the vic-
tims of this unfortunate incident. I
also pray that our pilgrims who have
gone to Saudi Arabia for the annual
Hajj are safe and would soon return
home," Persad-Bissessar said.
She added that the tragedy
occurred as T&T was praying col-
lectively for peace and harmony as
the country celebrated its 39th
anniversary of becoming a republic.
"As you offer prayers today I urge
you to think of the victims of this
tragedy and offer prayers on their
behalf so their souls would find peace
as they reunite with the Creator.
"While they might have been
strangers to us, we must recognise
they were our brothers and sisters,
God's children, meeting to pray for
a better world for all humanity," Per-
Rowley, Kamla express sorrow over tragedy
Maulana Sheraz Ali, Imam of the Nur-E-Islam Mosque in El Socorro
said most of the groups who had organised local pilgrims for Hajj had
so far reported that no T&T nationals were hurt or killed in the
He said most pilgrims would have undergone some type of Hajj
training in their respective country before the journey.
"But often this is only centered on how to perform the rituals and
not how to deal with a mass of more than a million people moving at
the same time. With so many people in one place trying to move
around, stampedes can happen easily, sometimes set off by a loud
noise that people might mistake for an explosion," Ali said.
He added that although there was usually security in the form of
hundreds of officers and guards, with so many different people
speaking different languages, sometimes instructions could be
misunderstood and cause confusion or even result in hundreds of
people to start moving in another direction.
Imam: Stampedes can happen easily
T&T Guardian employee in Mecca....
'Stormers' caused fatal stampede
T&T Guardian's sales executive Acklima
Mohammed in Mecca.
Pilgrims visiting Mecca are seen
spending the night in Mudhulifa on
PHOTO COURTESY ACKLIMA MOHAMMED
Links Archive September 24th 2015 September 26th 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page