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Floods kill 77 in Saudi Arabia

Torrential rain has killed at least 77 people after flooding hit the Red Sea coastal city of Jiddah, around 40 miles from the Saudi Arabian holy city Mecca, where three million Muslims have gathered for the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The majority of deaths happened in the shantytowns around Jiddah and along the main highway to Mecca - home to poorer, foreign immigrants who work in the city as drivers, construction workers and domestic help.

Civil defence officials said streets were swamped with water, some houses collapsed and there were mudslides.

It did not immediately appear that any pilgrims were among the dead. Jiddah’s civil defence chief Capt. Abdullah al-Amri said 21 of the victims were identified as Saudis and the rest were believed to be residents of Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday’s downpours snarled the opening day of the hajj, drenching pilgrims and knocking out roads that caused epic traffic jams as the faithful tried to make their way to the holy sites. The rains, if they continue as meteorologists predict, could raise safety hazards - particularly the perennial danger of deadly stampedes, since a trip-up on slippery walkways could lead to people getting trampled in crowds.

 

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