At least 22 umrah pilgrims, including eight Bangladeshis, were killed in a road crash in Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Eight Bangladeshis have been identified among the pilgrims who were killed in the road crash, confirmed the Embassy of Bangladesh in Riyadh on Tuesday.
A bus ferrying them to the holy city of Makkah burst into flames after a collision on a bridge. Some 29 pilgrims also got injured in the accident. Among them, 18 are Bangladeshis.
The incident in the southern province of Asir highlights persistent challenges to safely transporting worshippers to Makkah and Madina, the holiest cities in Islam.
The bus was carrying 47 pilgrims including 35 Bangladeshis, said Arifuzzaman, first secretary (labour), Bangladesh consulate in Jeddah.
According to sources at the Embassy of Bangladesh in Riyadh, most of the Bangladeshi pilgrims, who were killed and injured, hail from the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.
The embassy hasn’t revealed the identities of dead and injured Bangladeshis, but sources confirmed the identities of two Bangladeshis killed–Muhammad Asif, son of Ahmed Ullah of East Fakiraghona village of Bara Maheshkhali, and Shefayet Ullah, son of Nurul Islam of Bara Dail Road. They are members of the same family.
The accident has taken place in the first week of Ramadan, a busy time for umrah pilgrimages, and just months before millions of Muslims are expected to make the annual hajj pilgrimage.
“According to preliminary information we have received, the number of deaths in this accident reached 22, and the total number of injuries was approximately 29,” the state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel reported.
It said the victims had ‘different nationalities’ but did not mention them or provide a breakdown.
The channel said the bus had ‘car trouble’, without specifying, while the private newspaper Okaz said the accident resulted from an issue with the brakes.
The vehicle ‘then collided with a bridge, overturned and caught fire’.
Footage broadcast on Al-Ekhbariya showed a reporter standing in front of what appeared to be the burnt-out shell of the bus.
Transporting worshippers around Saudi Arabia’s holy sites is a perilous task, particularly during the hajj, when roads can be chaotic with buses creating interminable traffic jams.
In October 2019, some 35 foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near Medina.
Yet pilgrimages are an essential component of a burgeoning tourism sector that Saudi officials hope will help diversify the kingdom’s economy away from fossil fuels.