At least 20 people have been killed after a bus carrying pilgrims hit a bridge, overturned and burst into flames in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
The incident took place on Monday in the southern province of Asir, bordering Yemen. It comes during the first week of Ramadan, a busy time for the Umrah pilgrimage, and just months before millions of Muslims are expected to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
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“According to preliminary information we have now received, the number of deaths in this accident reached 20, 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 burned-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 2016, some 19 people were killed when a bus overturned on a highway linking Medina and Mecca, while 22 others were injured.
Four British pilgrims were killed and 12 others injured in Saudi Arabia when their bus collided with a fuel tanker in April 2018.
In October 2019, some 35 foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near Medina.