Skip to main content

Relatives carry the casket of a Pakistani pilgrim, killed in a stampede at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia, upon his arrival in Multan on Monday.SS MIRZA/AFP / Getty Images

One survivor of last month's crush and stampede at the hajj in Saudi Arabia recalled seeing so many bodies that he couldn't tell how many there were.

The Associated Press sought to answer that question, arriving at a death toll of at least 1,453. That made the Sept. 24 disaster the deadliest accident ever at the annual pilgrimage. And hundreds remain missing.

The AP count is 684 higher than Saudi Arabia's official tally of 769 killed and 934 injured in the Sept. 24 disaster in Mina, a few miles from the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi officials, who could not be immediately reached for comment Friday, previously have said their tally remains accurate, although an investigation into the causes of the tragedy is ongoing. Authorities have not updated their casualty toll since Sept. 26.

The previous deadliest-ever incident happened in 1990, when a stampede killed 1,426 people.

The AP figure comes from statements and officials' comments from 19 of the over 180 countries that sent citizens to the five-day annual pilgrimage.

Authorities have said the crush and stampede occurred when two waves of pilgrims converged on a narrow road, causing hundreds of people to suffocate or be trampled to death.

Mohammed Awad of Sudan told the AP at the time that he and his 56-year-old father were separated in the pushing and shoving. The 36-year-old pilgrim later found him alive under at least 10 bodies.

"You can't count how many bodies there were. They were stacked high," Awad said.

Iran says it had 465 pilgrims killed, while Egypt lost 148 and Indonesia 120.

Others include India with 101, Nigeria with 99, Pakistan with 93, Mali with 70, Bangladesh with 63, Senegal with 54, Benin with 51, Cameroon with 42, Ethiopia with 31, Sudan with 30, Morocco with 27, Algeria with 25, Ghana with 12, Chad with 11, Kenya with eight and Turkey with three. Hundreds remain missing, according to these countries.

Shiite power Iran, Sunni Saudi Arabia's Mideast rival, has blamed the disaster on the kingdom's "mismanagement" and accused Riyadh of a coverup, saying the real death toll exceeds 4,700, without providing evidence to support the claim.

Iran has called for an independent body to take over planning and administering the five-day hajj pilgrimage, required of all able Muslims once in their lifetimes. But the ruling Al Saud family likely would never give up its role in administering the holy sites, which along with Saudi Arabia's oil wealth gives it major influence in the Muslim world. King Salman himself is known as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.