SHAFAQNA – A raging fire has engulfed a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, inflicting heavy damage to the building, Saudi officials say.
According to the Saudi Civil Defense Department, the incident occurred in the ten-story hotel located in the Azaziya neighborhood on Sunday, when fire ignited from the bushes and palm trees on the foot of the building and spread to all the floors of the building one by one in no time.
The hotel was reportedly uninhabited when the fire broke out. The blaze erupted just before noon, said spokesman of the department, Colonel Saeed Sarhan.
He added that firefighters were deployed to the site upon receiving the news and they managed to extinguish the blaze from the outside, but had to comb the hotel from the inside to make sure the flames had been put out.
Sarhan, however, did not name the hotel nor he explained the likely cause of the fire, which sent thick plumes of black smoke over the structure.
Azaziya is home to many three-star hotels in Mecca, Muslims’ holiest site. The Hajj pilgrimage brings millions of Muslims to Saudi Arabia every year. The rituals are performed in Mecca and Medina, the second-most holy site in Islam.
A blaze at a 15-story hotel in Mecca on September 21, 2015, forced the evacuation of some 1,500 people. Another fire also broke out at another hotel in the city days earlier, which left a number of foreigners injured.
The kingdom is especially under fire over its role and handling of the Mina incident during the 2015 Hajj ceremony.
Hundreds of pilgrims lost their lives in the Mina disaster in September that year, when two large masses of pilgrims were directed by Saudi authorities toward one another and fused at a crossroads in Mina. The pilgrims were on their way to participate in the symbolic stoning of Satan in Jamarat.
Saudi Arabia claims nearly 770 people were killed in the incident, but officials with Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization say about 4,700 people, including 465 Iranians, lost their lives in the tragedy. An AP record says 2,426 pilgrims died in the incident.
The Mina disaster came days after a massive construction crane collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing over 100 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.
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