Saudi Red Crescent cares for pilgrims at Mecca

Published: 13 January 2006 0:00 CET

Hundreds of Saudi Red Crescent Society staff and volunteers went into action during a stampede yesterday at the Hajj pilgrimage at Mecca.

Media have reported that 362 people died and hundreds were injured at the foot of Jamarat Bridge where pilgrims were returning to Mina from Tawaf-al-Wada, the final ceremony of Hajj. This year about 2.5 million people are believed to have taken part in the Hajj, which is the world’s largest gathering.

Taking the lead in triage, 120 Saudi Red Crescent ambulance teams, each consisting of a doctor, nurse and driver, helped recover bodies and evacuate the injured to hospitals. The Red Crescent also aided people with a helicopter and at 20 medical posts at Jamarat Bridge with six staff at each post. Activities were carried out in coordination with the Saudi government.

Saudi Red Crescent deputy director of public relations Abdullah Al-Ruwaili said some Hajjis (pilgrims) seemed to have tripped over luggage and been crushed by the crowd. The Red Crescent advises Hajjis not to bring luggage with them.

Before each Hajj, the Saudi Red Crescent and several other national societies carry out exercises and give pamphlets with advice to pilgrims.

Now the Saudi Red Crescent has proposed discussing more cooperation with sister Red Crescent and Red Cross societies in preventing future problems at the Hajj.

Abdul Qader Abu Awad, Middle East regional disaster management delegate for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said one option would be to call for the volunteers of Red Crescent or Red Cross societies such as India or Indonesia to join their Saudi colleagues during the Hajj and give out information in their own languages.

“Many of the people who go to Mecca are not able to read Arabic so we need also to focus on different languages,” Mr Awad said.

For the next few days, the Saudi Red Crescent will be on standby and hopes the remaining pilgrims can complete the ceremonies without incident.