Saudi Arabian authorities say 48 people have been killed after heavy rains led to flooding in the port city of Jeddah on the first day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The heaviest rainfall in years – unusual in the desert kingdom – has flooded many streets and buildings. Two bridges on the road to Islam’s holy city of Mecca are said, by government officials, to have collapsed. More than one and a half million pilgrims have come from abroad for the Hajj and pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia should push that total above two and a half million, posing logistical and health problems. Safety measures are in place around the area where where pilgrims throw stones at pillars, symbolising the rejection of the devil’s temptation. As many as 362 people were crushed to death there in a stampede in 2006, the worst Hajj tragedy in 16 years.