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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 January 2006, 21:43 GMT
Pilgrim hostel collapses in Mecca
Dozens of rescuers were sent to the scene with heavy lifting gear

Rescue efforts are continuing into the night to try to get to Muslim pilgrims trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi interior ministry said at least 20 people were killed and 59 injured, though more might be trapped.

The multi-storey hostel, just outside Mecca's Great Mosque, fell down as people prayed in the nearby streets.

More than a million Muslims are in Mecca for the Hajj, which attracts pilgrims from around the world.

Saudi interior ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said the dead included 11 men, 8 women and one unidentified body.

"The rescue operations are still ongoing," he said.

Slow progress

The BBC's Rabiya Perekh, at the scene, said as dusk fell, rescuers erected search lights and said they would continue working through the night.

TV pictures show the aftermath of a hostel collapse in Mecca

She said two large cranes were removing rubble, but working very slowly, amid fears the wreckage might collapse further.

Saudi Red Crescent officials said the dead included pilgrims from Tunisia and Algeria.

The building - the al-Najd hostel on al-Ghazal Street, only 60m from the walls of the Great Mosque - was said to have been used by pilgrims from Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and India.

A Tunisian guide for pilgrims, Talha al-Nizi, said his group had just returned to their hotel, which was adjacent to the al-Najd.

"As I moved to step into my hotel, the whole building collapsed in front of my eyes. The whole street was full of dust," he said.

A French eyewitness, Abderrahmane Ghoul, said he had seen 23 bodies.

"I was present. It started with a fire in the building. A helicopter started to sprinkle water to put out the fire. Afterwards, the building collapsed," he said.


The hotel is surrounded by markets. Reports said at least 30 people were staying there.

Witness Mr Ghoul said the building was not as full as it might have been because daily prayers were taking place. However, he said there were many people praying in the square beneath the building.

Mecca, Islam's holiest city, has been marred by tragic incidents during previous Hajj pilgrimages.

Deadly stampedes are relatively common. They killed 251 people in 2004 and 1,426 in 1990.

Rescue attempts continue at the site of the collapse

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Hundreds killed in Hajj stampede
01 Feb 04 |  Middle East
Fourteen killed in Hajj stampede
11 Feb 03 |  Middle East
Hajj ends peacefully
24 Feb 02 |  Middle East

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