Source Pravda.Ru

Saudi Floods Death Toll Rises to 98

The death toll from the heaviest rainfall to hit Saudi Arabia in years rose to 98 on Saturday as more bodies were recovered, with dozens more expected to be found, a rescue services spokesman said.

The victims were drowned or were killed by collapsing bridges and in car crashes when floodwaters caused by the torrential rainfall ripped through the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Wednesday.

No pilgrims attending the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage 80 km (50 miles) away in Mecca were among the dead, officials have said. Jeddah is the main entry point to the kingdom for pilgrims.

Hundreds had to be rescued after being stranded by the floods, with access to the city hampered after two bridges on the highway leading to Jeddah were destroyed, Reuters informs.

According to CNN, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Mansour al-Turki told that 48 people were killed, but none of them were pilgrims at the Hajj. Other reports said as many as 77 people died, but it was not immediately known whether any of them were participants in the annual event.

The Hajj -- the fifth pillar of Islam -- requires devotees to journey to Mecca at least once in their lives.

The Hajj began Wednesday, and pilgrims were inconvenienced by the afternoon-long downpour on the first day of the annual observance.

But the rain had cleared by Wednesday night, making it easy for pilgrims to make their way to Mount Arafat on Thursday, a sweltering and windy but cloudless day where pilgrims trekked to seek forgiveness for their sins.

The deaths occurred the port city of Jeddah, Rabigh, north of Jeddah, and in the Mecca region, Saudi authorities said.

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