As the hajj religious pilgrimage entered its final day today, officials in Saudi Arabia continued to grapple with the aftermath of a deadly stampede that killed at least 719 people. Iran announced in a state TV broadcast that among those Iranians still missing are a former ambassador to Lebanon as well as two Iranian state TV reporters and a prominent political analyst. According to the TV report, 134 Iranian pilgrims died, the most fatalities confirmed from any country, while 354 remain missing. Iran has strongly criticized arch-rival Saudi Arabia over the disaster, blaming the Saudi government for "incompetence" and "mismanagement" of the annual hajj, which draws about 2 million pilgrims per year from more than 180 countries.
Saudi authorities are still investigating the accident. Health Minister Khalid al-Falih has blamed it on the masses themselves, telling a Saudi broadcaster that "some pilgrims had moved in the wrong direction amid the crowds." But a survivor who spoke to the AP says some Saudi guards only exacerbated the stampede at Mina by refusing to open nearby gates that could have relieved the crush. He says he was in the tightly packed crowd that collided on the same street with another mass of people coming from a different direction. Those in the back were unaware of this and pressed forward, causing a crush of bodies, trampling, and a stampede, he says. (Experts say "fluid dynamics" are to blame in stampede disasters.)