By Arab News
Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defense has been empowered to remove any structure or person that might stand in its free movement in locations of Haj, an official of Civil Defense has said.
“Civil Defense teams should beef up monitoring safety conditions in licensed facilities to accommodate pilgrims. They are also authorized to remove instantly any structure or illegal presense that will hinder the movement Civil Defense teams on emergency assignments,” Lt. Gen. Saad Al-Tuwaijeri, director general of Civil Defense, warned in a press conference yesterday.
It is the unlicensed pilgrims who block roads in the holy sites and other locations of Haj. Many of them sleep on the roads and even erect make-shift tents on roads obstructing of traffic. Al-Tuwaijeri said Civil Defense is employing the latest technology to monitor air pollution in tunnels used by pilgrims and will send SMS messages to keep the pilgrims informed about dangerous locations and situations.
“More than 450 field teams and units are kept in battle readiness with all the rescue gears and machines to undertake any type of accident.
Some units started their preparations at the locations of Haj in the beginning of September,” he said.
He feared that fire accidents are possible to increase this year more than the previous years because of the higher temperature. Other possible emergencies could be resulting from storms, rain, rock falls, pollution and food poison apart from crowding and stampede.
The number of pilgrims this year is expected to be around three million. The Ministry of Interior has issued 1.8 million visas for pilgrims from abroad.
Al-Tuwaijeri also announced the completion of all Civil Defense preparations for the Haj this year, for which pilgrims from foreign countries are currently flocking to Makkah.
“Interior Minister Prince Ahmed, who is also Chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, has approved the plans of the Civil Defense to face any possible contingency in Makkah, holy sites and Madinah during Haj this year,” Al-Tuwaijeri said in the statement.
He added that the huge potential that the government has made available for the Civil Defense has boosted the capability and morale of the Civil Defense personnel to counter any emergency situation and enable them to perform their duties at the highest level of efficiency.
The Civil Defense will be operating in collaboration with the all related government departments and security forces, he said.
He said his department has learned a lot from the past experience in the management of massive crowds and made necessary preparations well in advance.
He added that the challenges to his department have been growing with the commissioning of the expansion projects such as Jamarat and new squares of the Grand Mosque in addition to the Mashair Railway.
All these projects are meant to serve pilgrims in huge numbers but the massive crowding in such locations warrants extreme vigilance and battle readiness for instant response on the part of the Civil Defense.