JEDDAH/AL-JOUF/MADINAH, 17 January 2008 — At least 10 people and hundreds of animals have died as a result of unprecedented cold weather in different parts of the Kingdom.
The coastal city of Jeddah is preparing for the coldest weather in recent years. According to weather forecast for tomorrow, temperature in the city will drop to 11 degrees Celsius. In Riyadh, it will be minus two, said the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment. It forecast that the weather in Madinah would be two and in the northern city of Tabuk, it will be minus four.
“We expect rain in many parts of the Eastern Province and the Riyadh region,” the presidency added.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on Tuesday ordered emergency relief supplies, including foodstuffs and blankets, to be distributed to needy citizens affected by the weather.
Three people, including an 18-year-old Saudi student and an Indian worker, died in Al-Ola, 400 km north of Madinah. The student died while she was going to school early in the morning. Doctors said she had died after her heart stopped beating as a result of severe cold.
Another expatriate was found dead on the road in Mahd, 300 km northeast of Madinah. Adel Abdul Raheem Sharaf, spokesman for health affairs in Madinah, confirmed that both expatriates died of cold.
Two more expatriate workers were found dead in their company accommodation in Madinah after inhaling smoke from firewood which they were burning to protect themselves against cold.
Mansour Al-Johani, spokesman for civil defense, cautioned the public against adopting unsafe methods of heating.
Maj. Gen. Hamid Al-Jeaid, director general of civil defense in the Eastern Province, said 90 percent of accidents in winter were caused by the incorrect use of firewood.
He also pointed out that expatriate workers were the main victims of such accidents. He urged the public to avoid using firewood because of the dangers involved.
Press reports said two expatriates working in the eastern city of Al-Ahsa died on Monday when the tent where they were sleeping in caught fire because of burning wood.
Snow has fallen on some northern Saudi cities where at least two people died from the cold. One was an Asian worker and the other an Egyptian who froze to death in his room on the farm where he worked, newspapers said. Another Egyptian worker died from inhaling the fumes of a coal fire he lit in his room.
Meanwhile, some Western journalists who came to the Kingdom to cover the visits of US President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had a wonderful time as a result of the unexpected weather.
“I had never expected such beautiful weather in Saudi Arabia. I had come here with the expectation of extremely hot weather,” said one journalist.
But for cattle owners across the Kingdom the weather was disastrous as they lost hundreds of their animals.
Ayed Al-Ruwaili, a cattle owner in the northern Al-Jouf region, said he had lost more than 200 animals.