A terrible road accident mourns Saudi Arabia. A bus carrying pilgrims to Mecca burst into flames after a collision on a bridge on Monday, killing 20 people and injuring around 30 others, according to the state television channel Al-Ekhbariya.
The victims are of “different nationalities”, according to the channel, which did not give further details. Al-Ekhbariya released footage showing a reporter in front of what appeared to be the charred carcass of a bus.
The challenge of pilgrim transport security
The tragedy, which took place in the province of Asir (south), underlines the constant challenge of the safety of the transport of pilgrims bound for Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities of Islam. It occurs during the first week of the fasting month of Ramadan, when many Muslims perform the Umrah pilgrimage (small pilgrimage), and a few months before the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Transporting pilgrims on the roads of Saudi Arabia can be perilous, especially during the hajj, when endless traffic jams are created by buses full of worshippers. Pilgrimages also remain a crucial part of the tourism sector, which Saudi leaders rely on to diversify their fossil fuel-dependent economy.