Madinah hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims

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Updated 16 March 2014
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Madinah hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims

Fifteen pilgrims died and 130 others were injured in a fire that broke out at a hotel in Madinah on Saturday, the Madinah Governorate said in a statement.
The fire occurred at the Ishraq Al-Madina Hotel at 2:33 p.m.
Eyewitnesses said the victims were of different nationalities and included Egyptians and Turks.
Civil Defense firefighters were able to put out the blaze by 5 p.m., the governorate said.
Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman has been following up on the incident.
An investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire has been launched, sources said. Preliminary reports indicate that the fire occurred as a result of a short circuit during maintenance work.
Thirty of the injured were treated on the spot, while others were sent to King Fahd Hospital and the Ansar Hospital. According to one report, Ansar received four bodies and 91 injured.
Most pilgrims died of suffocation, the statement said. There were about 700 guests in the hotel at the time the fire broke out. Authorities evacuated guests and closed off streets leading to the hotel on Sitteen Street.
Some pilgrims who were trapped inside the hotel climbed to the roof of the building for safety.
A large number of people had gathered in front of the hotel, obstructing rescue efforts.
Eighteen fire-fighting teams were dispatched to put out the blaze, while the Red Crescent deployed 14 first-aid teams and Madinah’s Health Department eight teams.
An Indian pilgrim staying at a nearby building said she saw a huge plume of dark smoke coming out of the hotel as she was returning from the Prophet’s Mosque at around 2:45 p.m.
“We saw some people waving through the windows for help. We also saw several firefighters engaged in rescue operations. A large number of people had gathered in front of the hotel. It was a frightening scene,” she said.
There were conflicting reports about the number of Egyptian casualties.
Ahmed Zaki, an official at the Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah, said they had received information about the death of four Egyptians. Another report said that as many as 12 of the 15 victims were Egyptians.
Egyptian Ambassador Afifi Abdel-Wahab was quoted as telling an Egyptian television channel that “15 Egyptians died in the fire.”
Prince Faisal has ordered hotel guests to be relocated.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will patronize the launch of the Qiddiya Project

Updated 24 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will patronize the launch of the Qiddiya Project

  • Qiddiya Project is the new entertainment, sports and cultural destination in the Kingdom
  • The first phase will be completed by 2022

RIYADH: Saudi King Salman will launch the construction of an “entertainment city” near Riyadh Wednesday, authorities said, part of a series of multi-billion dollar projects as the Kingdom seeks to diversity its oil-reliant economy.
The 334-square kilometer project in Qiddiya, southwest of Riyadh, would rival Walt Disney and include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari park, officials say.
The facility highlights a “relentless effort to develop giga-projects that will help achieve many direct and indirect economic returns,” project official Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi was quoted as saying in a government statement on Monday.
Qiddiya chief executive Michael Reininger said he expects the project will draw foreign investors in entertainment and other sectors, but did not specify the total cost of construction.
Such projects are the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a self-styled liberal change agent who is the chief architect of the sweeping “Vision 2030” reform program.
Saudi Arabia has dazzled investors with several plans for hi-tech “giga projects,” funded in part by its sovereign wealth fund, but some skeptics question their viability in an era of cheap oil.
The Kingdom has unveiled blueprints to build NEOM, a mega project billed as a regional Silicon Valley, in addition to the Red Sea project, a reef-fringed resort destination — both worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Analysts say the projects could create funding pressures at a time when the government faces a yawning budget deficit and growth in the Kingdom’s non-oil economy is only slowly gathering pace.
The reform stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the Kingdom has been reeling from an oil slump since 2014.
Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighboring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.
In February, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.