Following Hajj tragedy - King orders modernization of Saudi holy places; death toll rises to 251
Saudi King Fahd ordered the holy places of Mecca and Medina to be modernized just hours after 244 Muslims - half of them Asians - died during a ritual that regularly results in deadly stampedes at the hajj pilgrimage.
On Monday, however, the toll rose to 251, after seven people injured in Sunday's stampede died. Seven among the wounded died overnight Sunday to Monday, according to health ministry spokesman Khalid al-Murghalani.
The 20-year project, announced by royal decree, would be drawn up by ministers and top regime officials who would "gradually put forward proposals" and could call on expertise from abroad as well as within the Saudi kingdom, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Mutaab bin Abdul Aziz would head a committee including Mecca regional governor Abdul Majid bin Abdul Aziz, Medina regional governor Muqran bin Abdul Aziz and Hajj Minister Iyad bin Amin Madani, SPA reported.
On Sunday, the 244 dead and a similar number wounded were trampled or suffocated as pilgrims surged forward to lob stones at pillars representing the devil.
According to the Saudi interior ministry, 54 Indonesians and 36 Pakistanis were among the dead. The official list also identified 13 Egyptians, 11 Turks, 11 Indians, 10 Algerians, 10 Bangladeshis, 8 Sudanese, seven Moroccans, five Chinese, four Yemenis, three Sri Lankans, two Afghans, two Somalis, two Syrians, two Saudis, one Burmese, one Omani, one Tunisian, one Nigerian, one Chadian and one Cameroonian.
Another 58 people who died had not been identified, according to the list carried by SPA, although three were said to be from southeast Asia.
"We believe that most of the dead are from among illegal pilgrims," Hajj Minister Madani said, referring to those who arrived earlier in the year to perform the minor umrah pilgrimage and stayed illegally, as well as local residents who never registered for the hajj.
He said 2,000 national guard members were moved to the area following the stampede to reinforce 10,000 police already on site.
Despite the stampede, which lasted nearly half an hour, the ritual resumed later Sunday and continued for two and a half hours. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)