September 24, 2015 11:40 AM

Tragedy struck the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday morning.

A deadly stampede near the holy city killed more than 700 people and left 800 more injured, according to Saudi Arabian officials.

The incident took place in Mina, a large valley three miles from Mecca, during one of the final rituals of the Hajj season.

According to Muslim tradition, the ritual – known as “stoning the devil” – involves crowds of pilgrims throwing stones at three pillars in a reenactment of when the Prophet Abraham stoned the devil and rejected his temptations.

At a point during the ceremony, there was a sudden surge in the crowd, which caused a number of people to fall, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, citing civil defense officials.

Rescue workers attend to victims of a stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual hajj pilgrimage.
AP

Amateur photos and videos shared on social media show a gruesome scene, with bodies of pilgrims wearing traditional white clothing lying on the ground, surrounded by crushed wheelchairs and water bottles.

The incident was “possibly caused by the movement of some pilgrims who didn t follow the guidelines and instructions issued by the responsible authorities,” the Saudi health minister, Khalid al-Falih, said in a statement.

The stampede comes almost two weeks after a crane collapse killed more than 100 people at another major holy site, the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Muslim pilgrims and rescuers gather around people who died in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual hajj pilgrimage.
AP

This isn t the first deadly incident to occur during the sacred ceremony.

Hundreds were killed during stampedes in the 80s and 90s. In 1990, a large stampede in a tunnel in Mina left 1,426 people dead. The most recent deadly stampede occurred in 2006, with 360 pilgrims killed.

Emergency services attend to victims crushed in a crowd in Mina, Saudi Arabia, during the annual hajj pilgrimage.
AP

According to civil defense authorities, the death toll is currently 717, but the numbers have been climbing. Officials deployed 4,000 workers, along with 220 ambulances and other emergency vehicles, in response to the disaster.

More than two million Muslims from around the world have gathered to take part in the annual five-day pilgrimage.

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