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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 11:22 GMT
New bridge planned at Hajj site
By Sebastian Usher
World Media correspondent

A pilgrim throws a stone at a stone pillar on the bridge
Authorities say the bridge has been planned since last year
Reports in the Saudi media say a new bridge is to be built at the spot where a stampede at this year's Hajj killed more than 360 pilgrims.

The Jamarat Bridge will be considerably expanded to accommodate the huge number of people gathering there on the last day of Hajj, the Saudi press says.

It will have an early warning system to prevent crushes caused by overcrowding.

The Saudi authorities say the project was planned last year and the timing is not related to last week's disaster.

The press has published details of the new Jamarat Bridge that is to replace the old one that is currently being demolished.

The reports say that more than $1bn (568m) have been assigned to the project, which is due to be completed in the next three years.

Four floors

More than 5,000 workers will be involved and a large factory has already been set up near Jeddah to manufacture concrete blocks for the project.

The new bridge will have four floors with 12 entrances and 12 exits. There will be three tunnels for the more than two million pilgrims to pass through as they perform the ritual stoning of the devil that is the climax of the Hajj.

See the safety changes made to Jamarat Bridge after a fatal stampede in 2004.

A member of the design team told the Saudi press that the idea is to reduce the density of the pilgrims in any one place by channelling their arrival through more routes.

The reports also say the new bridge will have the most advanced early warning system to prevent overcrowding and stampedes.

The Saudi authorities say the project is not a response to this year's stampede, but had already been approved last year.

This year's disaster prompted renewed criticism in some quarters of the Saudis' management of the Hajj, which has been scarred by similar stampedes over recent years.



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