RIYADH: Nineteen pilgrims were killed and 22 injured, all of them Egyptians, when their bus overturned in western Saudi Arabia on Saturday morning. Among those injured are two women and a child.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that the driver, an Asian, dozed off and lost control over the bus, leading to the ghastly accident along the Madinah-Makkah highway.
The accident comes three days after a bus carrying Palestinian pilgrims overturned in a remote area of southern Jordan, killing 16 passengers.
“The bus was carrying the pilgrims to the Holy Capital for Umrah when the accident happened on the Al-Hijrah road, around 135 km away from Madinah,” Brig. Nawaf bin Nahis Al-Mohammadi, director of Madinah Traffic Department, said.
Khalil bin Sahli, Saudi Red Crescent spokesman in Madinah, said the emergency operations (997) received a report at 4.51 a.m. on Saturday morning regarding the accident. A total of 14 ambulance teams were immediately dispatched to the scene of the accident, he said. “The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals in the region for treatment.”
The crisis and emergency department at Madinah health department sounded an emergency in all the hospitals in the region soon after the accident.
Twelve of the injured were admitted to hospitals in Wadi Al-Fara Province and 10, including the two women and the child, were admitted to the Miqat Hospital in Madinah.
In the Jordan accident, an Alna Shama bus veered off the road in the accident late Wednesday in Maan, near Jordan’s border with Saudi Arabia, the Associated Press reported, quoting Farid Sharea, a spokesman for Jordan’s Civil Defense department.
Injured passenger Azzah Ibrahim said he remembers the bus overturning. “Some of us were beneath the bus, and some of us were inside the bus, between the chairs,” Ibrahim said from his hospital bed in the southern city of Maan, about 70 kilometers from the scene of the accident.
Sharea said heavy equipment was used to lift the bus and pull nine bodies from underneath the vehicle.
The windows of the mud-smeared bus were shattered. Glass shards, passengers’ crumpled clothing and empty water bottles were strewn on the floor of the vehicle.
The passengers, all from the West Bank, had been on their way to a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Bassam Hijawi, an official at the Palestinian Embassy in Jordan, said five critically injured passengers were flown by helicopter to the Jordanian capital of Amman. Three others, who were in serious condition, were evacuated to a hospital in the Red Sea port of Aqaba, he told the Voice of Palestine.