31 killed after walkway collapse triggers stampede at Iraqi Shiite shrine

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Relatives of one of the victims of a stampede at the Shiite religious ritual of Ashura carry a coffin during a funeral in Kerbala. (Reuters)
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Injured are taken to hospital after a walkway collapsed and set off a stampede as thousands of Shiite Muslims marked one of the most solemn holy days of the year in Karbala, Iraq. (AP Photo)
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Relatives of one of the victims of a stampede at the Shiite Muslim religious ritual of Ashura carry a coffin during a funeral in the holy city of Kerbala, Iraq. (Reuters)
Updated 11 September 2019

31 killed after walkway collapse triggers stampede at Iraqi Shiite shrine

  • Around 100 others were injured in the incident, which occurred toward the end of an Ashoura procession in Karbala
  • The incident took place during the so-called Tweireej run, when tens of thousands of people run toward the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala around noon

BAGHDAD: A walkway collapsed and set off a stampede in the holy city of Karbala on Tuesday as thousands of Shiite Muslims marked one of their holiest days of the year. At least 31 people were killed and about 100 were injured.
It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations, when hundreds of thousands of people converge on the city, some 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, for the occasion every year.
The incident happened toward the end of the Ashoura procession, causing a panicked rush among worshippers near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, according to two officials who spoke to The Associated Press from Karbala.
In recent years, Ashoura processions have been attacked by extremist militants. In 2004, at the height of Iraq's sectarian violence, 143 people were killed in near simultaneous suicide and other bombings at shrines in Baghdad and Karbala during the Ashoura procession.
In 2005, rumors of a suicide bomber among worshippers crossing a bridge during a different religious holiday caused a massive stampede killing more than 950 people, many of whom jumped, in their panic, into the Tigris River.
Tuesday's commemorations were peaceful until the walkway collapsed, triggering the chaos.
The incident took place during the so-called "Tweireej" run, when tens of thousands of people run toward the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala around noon.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of thousands of black-clad pilgrims held Ashoura processions amid beefed-up security in Karbala and in the capital, Baghdad, marching through the streets. 


‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

Updated 07 August 2020

‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

  • The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion
  • The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest

BEIRUT: Beirut residents began trying to rebuild their shattered lives on Friday after the biggest blast in the Lebanese capital’s history tore into the city, killing at least 154 and leaving the heavily indebted nation with another huge reconstruction bill.
The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion smashed a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
Security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the government and a political elite, who have presided over a nation that was facing economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.
“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old, sitting in the family home in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where highly explosive material was stored for years, a ticking time bomb next to a densely populated area.
As Abdou spoke, a domestic water boiler fell through the ceiling of his cracked home, while volunteers from the neighborhood turned out on the street to sweep up debris.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest. State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived.
Shockwaves
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion — a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150% of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again. Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
The weeping mother of one of the missing called a prime time TV program on Thursday night to plead with the authorities to find her son, Joe. He was found — dead — hours later.
Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told local radio VDL that three more bodies had been found in the search, while the health minister said on Friday the death toll had climbed to 154. Dozens are still unaccounted for.
Charbel Abreeni, who trained port employees, showed Reuters pictures on his phone of killed colleagues. He was sitting in a church where the head from the statue of the Virgin Mary had been blown off.
“I know 30 port employees who died, two of them are my close friends and a third is missing,” said the 62-year-old, whose home was wrecked in the blast. His shin was bandaged.
“I have nowhere to go except my wife’s family,” he said. “How can you survive here, the economy is zero?“
Offers of immediate medical and food aid have poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France. He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
He was greeted on the street by many Lebanese who asked for help in ensuring “regime” change, so a new set of politicians could rebuild Beirut and set the nation on a new course.
Beirut still bore scars from heavy shelling in the 1975-1990 civil war before the blast. After the explosion, chunks of the city once again look like a war zone.