At least 244 pilgrims were trampled to death Sunday during a hajj ritual in Mecca. Unfortunately, such tragedies occur frequently at the sacred event due to overcrowded conditions, as Brendan Koerner explained in February 2003:
Simply put, the ancient facilities have not expanded in proportion to the number of pilgrims. The most hazardous part of the hajj is the stoning of the pillars at Mina. … The ceremony, in which Muslims symbolically rebuke the devil by throwing 21 pebbles at three pillars, has changed little over the past 14 centuries. What has changed is the number of participants—at least 2 million people a year now partake, according to unofficial estimates.