Blaze kills pilgrims in Saudi Arabia's Medina

Egyptians said to be among the dead after fire blamed on maintenance work engulfs hotel in Islam's second holiest city.

    A fire at a hotel in Islam's holy city of Medina in Saudi Arabia has left 15 pilgrims dead and injured 130 others, according to the state-run news agency SPA.

    Officials quoted by SPA did not identify the victims but said about 700 pilgrims had been staying at the hotel in the western city of Medina to perform the Umrah, or minor, pilgrimage, when tragedy struck on Saturday.

    Earlier the local Saudi authorities confirmed the report in a statement.

    "At 2:33pm this afternoon a fire occurred at a hotel located east of the central region, home to about 700 of pilgrims of different nationalities," the Medina governorate said.

    Colonel Khaled al-Juhani, a Medina civil defence department official, told al-Youm newspaper that more than 110 security personnel battled to control the blaze.

    The al-Bawaba Nayouz news website quoted a Red Crescent official as saying the dead were all Egyptians.

    "The fire resulted in the death of 15 ... caused by fainting, choking, bleeding and cardiac arrest and breathing. We also treated 30 cases of suffocation due to the fire," Mohammed Mahmoud Kheyat, spokesman for the Saudi Red Crescent in Medina, told the website.

    Television stations in Egypt also said that Egyptians were among those who perished, and Badr Abdelatty, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said his country was "still trying to confirm the numbers" of nationals who died.

    Ahmad Zaki, an employee of the Egyptian embassy in Jeddah, told the Youm al-Sabaa newspaper that there were "tens of Egyptians" among the injured and killed.

    Zaki said maintenance work at the hotel led to an electrical fire.

    Prince Faisal bin Salman, Medina's governor, said the government would look into the incident.

    Medina is a major religious destination for Muslims. The city is the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad and is Islam's second holiest city after Mecca.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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