Six Nigerians were counted among the dead and another six injured in a stampede on the way to the Jamrat complex (stoning site) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in which no fewer than 717 pilgrims died and 805 others injured on Thursday.
The Saudi Civil Defence Corps said that the exact cause of the accident could not be easily ascertained
The incident happened when there was a “sudden increase” in the number of pilgrims heading towards the pillars, the statement said.
This “resulted in a stampede among the pilgrims and the collapse of a large number of them”, it added.
Security personnel and the Saudi Red Crescent were “immediately” deployed to prevent more people heading towards the area, the directorate said.
The Saudi health minister, Khaled al-Falih, said the crush occurred because pilgrims failed to follow directions.
He said “many pilgrims move without respecting the timetables” established by authorities.
One eye witness said people were going towards the direction of throwing the stones while others were coming from the opposite direction. Then it became chaotic and suddenly people started going down.
There were Nigerians, Nigeriens, Chadians and Senegalese among other nationals. People were just climbing on top of others in order to move to a safer place and that's how some people died.
People were chanting Allah's name while others were crying, including children and infants. People fell on the ground seeking help but there was no-one to give them a helping hand. Everybody seemed to be on their own.
“It affected some members of our group. I lost my aunt as a result of the stampede and at the moment, two women from our entourage – a mother and her daughter – are still missing.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that many of the injured were in a semi-conscious state due to harsh summer weather that compounded the problem.
Sirens wailed as ambulances conveyed corpses and injured persons to hospitals, while hundreds of Saudi security forces and hajj volunteers were on hand helping the victims.
Most of the injured were taken to the Mina Emergency Hospital while others were rushed to hospitals in Makkah.
The Jamarat area, where pilgrims perform the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual, had witnessed stampedes in the past.
However, the Saudi authorities had expanded the area by constructing a multi-million-dollar complex to ease the flow of pilgrims.
Pilgrims had spent the night in Muzdalifa and had come to Mina to throw seven stones at one of the three wall-like structures.
Preparations for the Hajj were marred when a crane collapsed at Mecca's Grand Mosque this month, killing 109 people.
It is the deadliest incident to occur during the Hajj in 25 years.