Families with Hajj pilgrimage ties concerned after fatal stampede

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A tragedy during the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia when about 700 were trampled to death in a stampede.

One look at all the devastation in Mecca at the annual Hajj pilgrimage and Fatima Salman is counting her blessings that her sister who is still there was not killed or hurt.

"We were grateful for God to have saved her," said Salman. "She got in touch with us and said she was okay, she just missed the stampede by 20 minutes."

Officials say the stampede happened when pilgrims going in the opposite directions collided.

Imam Mohamed Almasmari, the executive director of the Michigan Muslim Community Center is in Mecca for the pilgrimage and called it a great tragedy.

"We never expected something like this," he said. "This is the last thing we expected. Yes, the Saudi government has things they need to work on in organizing the people, organizing the crowds."

The Detroit area Muslim leader says he and his group had passed the area about 45 minutes prior to the stampede taking place. 

Almasmari described what Mecca looked like after the terrifying incident

"The death toll is rising," he said. "And they finished picking up the bodies. That was earlier in the day and of course tomorrow it will be much more organized. There is a lot of police all over, you have the army force all over where the incident took place and it will be much safer tomorrow."

Members of the local Muslim community say despite the horrible magnitude of this tragedy they will go back to Mecca for this annual pilgrimage

"I know they are going to be more vigilant next year and make sure things will be better," said Salman.