Nigeria’s death toll rises to 222 ...in Hajj stampede update
The number of Nigerian pilgrims who died as a result of the September 24 stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, has gone up to 222 even as Sokoto and Kano states still top the list of casualties.
An official of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAH CON) Dr. Ibrahim Kana, who spoke exclusively to Daily Trust from Saudi Arabia yesterday, said 355 Nigerians were affected in the tragedy.
“By the latest figures we have so far identified 222 bodies, 130 missing and three recuperating in the hospital. We are not leaving any stone unturned until we account for all Nigerians, dead or alive. Majority have been buried in Makkah. We have all the records of graves of Nigerians. The idea is that we would share this with relations who may want to visit and pray for them.
“But the DNA analysis that we would be carrying out in Nigeria in the coming weeks would provide identity for everyone. The DNA kits that we collected from the Saudi authority would be used on relations back in Nigeria. The DNA analysis would be conducted in Riyadh and we would go round the country to take blood samples from the victims’ relationships either father, mother, son or daughter,” Kana, who is the commissioner in charge of Health for the Hajj 2015, said.
He said two female pilgrims who became unconscious due to the stampede had since regained consciousness. Though they were formerly tagged unknown, they had now been found to come from Kano State, he said.
Kana said that when he spoke with them separately at King Abdullah Medical City, Madinah Road, Jeddah and Heraa Hospital, Makkah, they both said they absconded during Umrah (lesser hajj) with one in 2015 and the other over five years ago.
“They are both undergoing renal dialysis but would be discharged very soon and deported back to Nigeria. We have duly informed the Nigerian Consul General in Jeddah, Ambassador Ahmed Umar, who is making effort at identifying their relations through the Nigerian community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He also said that two male victims who had been on admission in Makkah were, in the last flight, accompanied to Nigeria by doctors of the Federal Medical Team.
He said: “One is a Kwara State pilgrim involved in the stampede, who regained consciousness and was relatively stable at the point of discharge. He would require government support to continue with his medical treatment in Nigeria, after the Saudis offered gratis to him.”
He however told Daily Trust that the other male pilgrim from the private tour operator who was left in the An Noor Hospital, Makkah before the medical team took him to King Abdulaziz Hospital, Makkah had consented to amputation of his right upper arm due to a lifethreatening infection.
He said that there were still two black male patients in King Abdulaziz Hospital, Taif and King Abdullah Medical City, Madinah road, Jeddah, assumed to be Nigerians until results of their finger print and DNA were out.
As at 18 October, the death toll from Nigeria stood at 199. Sokoto and Kano states lost 79 and 20 pilgrims respectively. Sokoto also accounts for the highest number of those missing at 59. Both Sokoto and Kano states recorded the highest female casualty.
The Commissioner Planning, Research Statistic Information and Library Service (PRSILS) of NAHCON Dr. Saleh Okenwa told Daily Trust in Makkah that the commission had identified the corpses of some victims hitherto declared missing, at the mortuaries in Saudi Hospitals.
As at October 21, the death toll from the stampede was put at 2097, based on tallies by French news AFP. But Saudi Arabia has yet to provide an updated death toll from the 769 it earlier mentioned.
63,831pilgrims back to Nigeria
Meanwhile, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has completed the airlift of 63,831pilgrims back to Nigeria with 162 flights since September 28 when it commenced return flights.
Nigeria began the airlift of pilgrims to the holy land for this year’s pilgrimage with the inaugural flight on August 23 in Kaduna State.
The last official flight arrived Minna, Niger State late Saturday with 534 pilgrims and officials according to the official flight schedules of the commission. The airlift was completed three days before the October 27 deadline the commission set for itself.
It was however learnt that the Chairman of the commission Abdullahi Mukhtar Mohammed, Dr. Ibrahim Kana and other officials remained behind to attend to victims of the September 24 deadly stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia that affected 355 Nigerians.