Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Monday, 28 December 2009

Saudi Arabia arrests officials in flood investigation

A pile of cars in Jeddah on 29 November
Saudis have accused the authorities of not providing sufficient protection

At least 40 Saudi officials have been arrested in an investigation into the authorities' response to devastating floods in Jeddah, local media say.

Some 150 people were killed in the floods in the port town last month.

The officials included a number of senior assistants to the mayor of Jeddah, the reports said.

The Saudi government have launched an unprecedented public investigation after a wave of criticism over the handling of the floods.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, who ordered the inquiry, has said that those responsible will be punished.

Local government officials, consultants and, and construction contractors are among the people arrested by police, it was reported.

Heavy rainfall sparked a flash flood in the town, Saudi Arabia's second city, on 25 November.

Angry Saudis have blamed local authorities for not providing basic protection from floods and failing to act fast enough.

Arabic media reported that the arrests did not necessarily mean the officials were being accused, but that the it was necessary for them to be detained to ensure the inquiry could be completed.

It was not clear if they would be released on bail, but they would be prevented from leaving the country, Arab News reported.

The public anger in the wake of the floods has been dubbed by some Saudis as a turning point, with Saudis for once forcing the authorities to take responsibility for their mistakes.

But correspondents say that while some members of the local government may be named and shamed, the endemic corruption that Saudis privately hold responsible for the disaster, and for the fact that no adequate drainage was in place in Jeddah, is unlikely to be tackled in any systematic way.

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