Stampede Is Greatest Loss of Life in Iraq Since Invasion - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/31/05

Stampede Is Greatest Loss of Life in Iraq Since Invasion

Pilgrims packed a bridge in Baghdad. Pilgrims packed a bridge in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Shiite worshippers were marching in a religious procession across a bridge when someone yelled there was a suicide bomber. There was panic, and a railing gave way, hurling crowds into the Tigris River below.

Iraq's health minister says the pilgrims started pushing each other, which led to many people suffocating.

The death toll from today's stampede in Baghdad surpasses by far the number of dead from any of the suicide bombs, shooting attacks or kidnappings in Iraq since the US invasion.

Officials now say at least 695 people died after thousands of Shiite pilgrims packed on a bridge panicked. Scores jumped or were pushed to their deaths into the Tigris River. Many were crushed in the crowd, which officials say was jammed at a security checkpoint on one side of the bridge.

One survivor says the crowd panicked when people heard rumors that a suicide bomber was among them. He jumped into the river, and says when he reached the bank he saw women, children and old men falling into the water.

Iraq's prime minister has declared a three-day mourning period.

Hospital morgues are so jammed that scores of sheet-covered bodies lay on sidewalks in the stifling summer heat. Many are women in black gowns.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
 

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