35 Dead in Saudi Bus Crash, MEA Ascertaining Details of Indians

Thirty-five foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near the Muslim holy city of Medina, Saudi state media said on Thursday, 17 October.

The accident on Wednesday involved a collision between “a private chartered bus...” with a heavy vehicle near the western Saudi Arabian city, a spokesperson for Medina police said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA), cited by news agency AFP.

Soon after the crash, the Ministry of External Affairs said it has asked its mission in Jeddah to ascertain the details of Indians involved in the incident.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took to Twitter to offer his condolences.

Those involved were Arab and Asian pilgrims travelling from Medina to Mecca, according to local media, which carried pictures of the bus engulfed in flames and with its windows blown out.

According to AFP, the Okaz newspaper said that the victims were expatriates who lived in the kingdom and who were performing the umrah – the lesser pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places, which can be undertaken year round. However, the nationalities of the victims are not known as yet.

The injured have been transferred to Al-Hamna Hospital, SPA added, and authorities have launched an investigation.

Past Accidents

The accident comes after four British pilgrims were killed and 12 others injured in Saudi Arabia when their bus collided with a fuel tanker in April 2018. They were on their way to the holy city of Mecca.

In January 2017, six Britons, including a two-month-old baby, were killed in a minibus on their way to Medina after making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

As part of efforts to diversify its oil-dependent economy, the ultra-conservative kingdom wants to foster a year-round religious tourism sector that attracts millions of pilgrims, AFP reported.

Up until last month, the country only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events, but tourists are now allowed to visit as part of the drive to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.

In September 2015, a stampede killed up to 2,300 worshippers – including hundreds of Iranians – in the worst disaster ever to strike the Hajj annual pilgrimage.

Earlier that month, 100 people were killed when a construction crane toppled into a courtyard of Mecca's Grand Mosque.

(With inputs from AFP and PTI.)

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