Iran has released a new death toll of its citizens who were trampled in Mecca during the annual Islamic pilgrimage. Altogether, 769 pilgrims were killed in the incident on September 24.
Iran's Haj and Pilgrimage Organization said on Thursday, "Seven days after the incident and after visiting hospitals [in Saudi Arabia]… we sadly announce that the number of Iranians who died is 464."
"We're trying to transport the bodies to Iran through additional flights but the Saudi government has not agreed to it yet," Iran's Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Abbas Akhoundi, told the country's official news agency IRNA.
More than 64,000 of this year's two million pilgrims who attended the hajj were from Iran, according to the government. In all, 769 people died during the stampede at a stone-throwing ritual in Mina, close to Mecca. Other than Iran, nations whose citizens died in the tragedy include Pakistan, India, Algeria and Egypt.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered an investigation into the stampede.
Tensions between Tehran and Riyadh
The hajj disaster has strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which accuses the Arab country of incompetence. Saudi Arabia, for its part, has accused Iran of using the tragedy politically.
On Wednesday, Saudi Health Minister Khaled al-Faleh spoke to his Iranian counterpart Hassan Hashemi in Riyadh, where both leaders agreed to repatriate dead Iranian pilgrims who had been identified.
Disasters at the hajj
The hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca is considered one of Islam's five pillars. Muslims are expected to undertake the journey at least once in their lifetimes if they have the financial means to do so.
Saudi Arabia has said it has spent large amounts of money to boost safety during the pilgrimage, that has witnessed several tragedies in recent decades.
Over 1,400 pilgrims died in a stampede inside a tunnel in 1990 after a ventilation system broke down. Nearly 350 pilgrims were killed seven years later when a large fire gutted their tents, pitched near Mecca.
mg/kms (dpa, AFP)