The death toll from the heaviest rainfall to hit Saudi Arabia in years rose to 106 today as more bodies were recovered, with dozens more expected to be found, a Saudi official said. The victims were drowned or were killed by collapsing bridges and in car crashes when floodwaters caused by the torrential rainfall ripped through the Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Wednesday. No pilgrims attending the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage 80km away in Mecca were among the dead, officials have said. Jeddah is the main entry point to the kingdom for pilgrims.
Hundreds had to be rescued after being stranded by the floods, with access to the city hampered after two bridges on the highway leading to Jeddah were destroyed. Newspapers have repeatedly reported on the poor condition of the sewerage infrastructure of the city, where many live in unauthorised developments built on dry riverbeds. Meanwhile, an elderly Pakistani has died from swine flu in Saudi Arabia where he was participating in the haj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities said. The 70-year-old man had already been suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes when he was hospitalised with the A(H1N1) virus, the health ministry said in a statement on the official SPA news agency. The death, whose date was not given, was the fifth from swine flu among 2.3 million pilgrims taking part in the annual haj in the Muslim holy city of Mecca this week. Of the four others, three were 75 years old and suffering from other serious health problems.
The fourth was a 17-year-old Nigerian woman with a chest infection. Despite early worries, A(H1N1) infections have been low during the pilgrimage, doctors say. As of Thursday, there were only 57 proven infections and less than 20 more suspected cases, according to a health ministry spokesman Dr Khaled Marghlani. The infections were not concentrated in any specific group of pilgrims, though the largest number was from those coming from south and southeast Asia, the source of the largest number of pilgrims to the haj overall.