Saudi Survivor > After the incident which killed at least 700 people a survivor of the Thursday stampede at Muna Camp, a few kilometres away from the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Magaji Falalu Zarewa, has told Saturday Nation how he watched helplessly as pilgrims died.
Zarewa, who is a pilgrim from Kano State, said he narrowly escaped death himself, adding that his Ventolin Inhaler saved him from death.
“I stepped on dead bodies to escape to a safer place to stay and recover. Lifeless bodies of pilgrims became steps to escape routes,” he stated.
Zarewa, who is a student of the Islamic University of Madina, also in Saudi Arabia, said he has been performing hajj annually since the last 10 years.
He added, “The incident occurred around few minutes after 9:00am local time. The problem started when a large crowd of people who had already stoned the Jamrat (devil) were returning through the route of people going towards the Jamarat from Muzdalifa. That caused obstruction of movement and generated heat. People started collapsing. That is the first cause of people’s death. There was no water around the area.
“Then, the major problem and what I call the major cause of death is nations whose tents are close to the scene of the stampede. Countries like Algeria and Morocco locked access roads to their tents. Because, when the heat was becoming unbearable, people wanted to enter the nearby camps to decongest the main road, get air and water to drink.
“So, people started climbing the tents. I also got a strategic pillar of the tent and climbed, then I started breathing better until people began to shake the tent and it finally collapsed on many of us. I didn’t know how I came out of the tent because people were still climbing on us. I just saw myself as people were pouring water on me.
“When I recovered a little, I quickly grabbed my inhaler, because I am asthmatic and used it. Because I was still gasping for air. Then, the white tent was covered with blood and I watched helplessly as other pilgrims died.
“After I fully recovered, I saw a heap of dead bodies serving as steps for other people to escape. By then, rescue team had arrived, but they were no longer concerned about the dead bodies, they were only picking people with tendencies to survive.
“Then, I was telling the soldiers who were also trying to control the crowd that, the best they can do is to find a way of stopping pilgrims who have already performed the stoning of the devil from returning through the same route used by people who are going to the Jamrat. They told me, because I speak Arabic, that they were helpless. I told them can’t you people security agents, enter the camps of the nations around here and force them to open their gate, so that you can divert people to pass through their tents? And that was what they eventually did and people started entering. At that point, whether you like it or not, you must step on corpses to get out of the crowd.
“Then, people started to look for water everywhere, if they see you with water, it was like you are holding life. In my presence, someone urinated and poured the urine on his own head just to get refreshed.
“Three Fulani women who followed us because they saw me and my friends as guides died in the stampede. Although I didn’t see their corpses, my friend said he saw one of them crying as people were stepping on her and she died in the process.”