Four British Killed, 12 Wounded in Coach Crash on Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia

Published April 24th, 2018 - 01:00 GMT
(AFP/ File Photo)
(AFP/ File Photo)

Four British people have died and 12 others including a young child have been injured after a coach crashed and caught fire on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Raj Begum Hussain, 70, a mother of six and grandmother of 13 from Blackburn, Lancashire, has been named locally as one of the victims.

An elderly woman and her adult son, from Preston, Lancashire, and an elderly man, also from Preston, also died in the crash, coach company Hashim Travel said. 

The Blackburn-based travel company confirmed one of its buses was hit by a fuel tanker on the way from Mecca to Medina and burst into flames on Saturday afternoon. Saudi authorities said a small car was also involved.

It is believed the four victims, who were aged between around 30 to 75, were left trapped inside the burning coach while survivors leaped out of the windows. 

Mrs Hussain was travelling with her sister as the group went on an Umra pilgrimage to Mecca, BBC News reports. 

Their families are flying to the Middle East, where Saudi authorities said they were arranging emergency visas, while the UK Foreign Office said it was supporting the affected families. 

The coach, carrying 18 people, was hit near Al Khalas, 30 miles north of Mecca, at around 1pm local time. The driver of the petrol tanker is also said to have died.

Gulfaraz Zaman, director of Hashim Travel told MailOnline there were 16 members of their group on the bus accompanied by two Saudi nationals. They flew out as part of a pilgrimage package on April 15 and were due back on April 29. 

He said: 'This is a very tragic accident and as a result, four people have passed away. It is very distressing and our thoughts are with the families of the deceased.

'The coach driver said they were travelling in the opposite direction to the petrol tanker when a car overtook the tanker and he had to move in to the side of the road a little to let it through but then the petrol tanker hit the coach which caught fire.' 

'The families of the deceased have gone over there. The son of the elderly gentleman from Preston is flying out now and has had to pick up a visa from the embassy. 

'The two sons of the lady from Blackburn are flying out tonight, and the other two are mother and son and their family are flying out tomorrow.' 

The fire that ensued as a result of the collision burned the vehicle entirely, leaving only the frame behind.

Mr Zaman said that 'only five or six' of those injured are still in hospital, the rest have been discharged. One of them is a young child.

He said the coach driver had suffered minor injuries, with some of the other tourists suffering broken legs, noses and teeth.   

'I know these people personally, they were family friends. It is truly tragic,' he said. 

The Saudi embassy in London said it was 'working with the Foreign Office to issue emergency visas immediately to both the relatives of the four pilgrims who died as well as to families of the 12 British pilgrims who were injured.'

The injured have been taken to a hospital in Mecca where everything possible is being done to care for them.'

Ambassador Mohammed bin Nawaf tweeted: 'My sincere sympathies and thoughts are with the families of the four British pilgrims who tragically died in a coach crash in the kingdom on Saturday and for the pilgrims who were injured.

'Our prayers are with these families at this tragic time.' 

The Foreign Office says it is aware British nationals have been killed in the accident in Saudi Arabia

A spokesman said: 'We are supporting the British families of those who have died and those injured following a serious road traffic accident near the town of Al Khalas, Saudi Arabia.' 

Hashim Travel specialises in Umra and Hajj and has been providing travel packages for the past 15 years. Mr Zaman said it was the first accident. 

The Umra pilgrimage is similar to the annual Hajj one, which many Muslims undertake in August, but is smaller and remains optional. Umra can be carried out at any time of the year, while Hajj must be done on dates of the Islamic calendar. 

A spokesman for the Council of British Hajjis said: 'Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been affected by this tragic accident whilst on the Umrah pilgrimage to the holy lands. 

'We have been in touch with the British Consulate in Jeddah who are providing on the ground consular support.' 

Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah, said: 'I am really saddened to hear of the death of pilgrims. My prayers and thoughts for them and their family at this difficult time.' 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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