Relatives rush to Mina looking for missing Hajis

Updated 26 September 2015
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Relatives rush to Mina looking for missing Hajis

MINA: As the news of the tragedy spread around the world on Thursday, the relatives of those who were here for Haj made frantic calls to everyone they knew in Saudi Arabia.
Diplomats, newspaper reporters, photographers and volunteers were flooded with calls from distressed individuals who wanted news of friends and family members in Mina in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The relatives have hung on to every bit of news and every photo and every video that came out of Mina in the last 24 hours.
People took to Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to post photos and tent numbers of their relatives. Many could not reach their relatives in Mina because of the overload on telecom networks when two million pilgrims were trying to make calls at the same time.
The identification of bodies and the injured was itself not difficult but the high number of casualties overwhelmed hospitals.
Throughout the day and night, ambulances were busy taking people to hospitals and, if the doctors declared them dead, to morgues.
Afterward the identification work began in earnest. The first step was to look for the metallic wristbands that pilgrims wear. These wristbands have details about the pilgrim, his/her country of origin and the name of the relevant Haj establishment. Representatives of different countries went to hospitals and ascertained the names of the dead and injured. The lists were then made public.
In cases when there are no identification details, such as no wristband or badge, the thumb impressions of the dead are taken and matched with the database of thumbprints in the Passport Department. All pilgrims have to provide their thumbprints upon arrival in the Kingdom.
Many pilgrims from within the Kingdom are also among the dead. They had come to Haj with domestic Haj operators and in the absence of details, their relatives headed to Mina to check themselves.
Yasin Munawwar and Yawar Ali Khan, two Pakistani expats from Riyadh, arrived in Mina late on Thursday night. Munawwar had come to look for his sister and brother-in law, both of whom were listed as missing. Khan came to search for his brother who had come from Abha.
“They had cell phones but whenever we try to call them, they are unreachable. This has been the case since the tragedy on Thursday,” said Munawwar. “We don’t know what to do. Our relatives in Karachi are worried and have been calling us constantly about about my sister Tahmina and her husband Javed. So I came here to Mina to look for them. I have been visiting hospitals and visiting centers where missing persons are brought. This is our worst nightmare.”
Khan said there is no way his brother would not contact him. “I fear the worst,” he said. “My mind has stopped working. I am completely exhausted because of the stress and this terrible heat,” he told Arab News.
Asrar M. Khan from Riyadh made frantic calls to his friends in Mina about his friend, Muddasir Hussaini, an Indian, who was misising after the tragedy. Late in the night, however, he received the good news from Hussaini himself when he phoned his friends. “He was in the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Thursday after having completed the stoning of the devil early. He was totally oblivious to what had happened in Mina,” said Khan.
Not all stories of missing pilgrims, however, ended on a happy note. Some very sadly ended in morgues.


Website launched to support housing project in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Housing are working together to provide the necessary services for citizens from different social classes. (SPA)
Updated 26 min 17 sec ago
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Website launched to support housing project in Saudi Arabia

  • Real estate financing for January hit SR4.7 billion, and coming months were expected to see even bigger figures, Al-Hogail told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a housing conference in Riyadh

RIYADH: A new website has been set up to support a housing project for 10,000 units in the Kingdom.
Housing Minister Majid Al-Hogail, and Commerce and Investment Minister Majid Al-Qassabi on Sunday launched Benaa Housing, which will help construction companies and contractors contribute to a development program in the Kingdom.
Benaa Housing aims to speed up the process of building 10,000 housing units in various parts of Saudi Arabia by enabling small and medium enterprises in the construction sector to access and contribute to projects and opportunities. The estimated cost of the project is SR3.5 billion ($910 million).
“The Ministry of Housing is always keen to provide adequate housing, solutions, and services suitable to all families, especially the beneficiaries of the Housing Development Program in all regions of the Kingdom,” Al-Hogail said.
Al-Qassabi said the new platform would generate more business opportunities for small and medium enterprises and provide suitable apartments for middle-class and lower-income families.
“The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Housing are working together to provide the necessary services for citizens from different social classes and groups, and the new platform is the fruit of these efforts,” he added.
Earlier this month, the housing minister said he expected investments in the real estate financing sector to reach between SR60 billion and SR80 billion this year.
Real estate financing for January hit SR4.7 billion, and coming months were expected to see even bigger figures, Al-Hogail told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a housing conference in Riyadh.
Saudi home ownership was growing between 6 and 7 percent annually, he said, adding that he hoped to raise home ownership to 15,000 new households per month by 2020, from a little over 10,000 per month now.
The ministry aims to increase housing ownership through policy and stimulating the private sector, according to its website.
The challenges facing the ministry are the limited availability of suitable units for all parts of the population; difficulty in accessing adequate housing finance; the inefficiency of the real estate sector and heavy reliance on government funding.
“Even though 47 percent of Saudi families already own their homes, we aim to increase this rate by 5 percentage points by 2020,” the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan states. Vision 2030 also aims to speed up construction and provide Saudis with high-quality, competitively priced housing, and to stimulate localization of the country’s construction industry.