Hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims in Saudi holy city of Medina

Hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims in Saudi holy city of Medina

RIYADH - Reuters
Hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims in Saudi holy city of Medina

Emergency personnel wait to evacuate injured people after a fire broke out in a hotel, in Medina Feb 9. REUTERS photo

Fifteen people died and around 130 were injured when a fire broke out in a hotel where Muslim pilgrims were staying in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina on Feb. 8, the state news agency said.

The blaze was started by an electrical short circuit, according to a separate report on Egypt's state television station. 

It took rescue teams more than two hours to put out the fire and a nearby hotel was evacuated as a precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia's state news agency reported. 

Around 700 Muslim pilgrims were staying in the hotel at the time, it added.

The al-Bawaba Nayouz news website quoted a Red Crescent official as saying the dead were all Egyptians.

Adel al-Alfi, the Egyptian consul general in the western Saudi city of Jiddah, said five Egyptians, including two children, were among the victims, Dubai-based private broadcaster al-Arabiya reported.

"The fire resulted in the death of 15 ... caused by fainting, choking, bleeding and cardiac arrest and breathing. We also treated 30 cases of suffocation due to the fire," Mohammed Mahmoud Kheyat, spokesman for the Saudi Red Crescent in Medina, told the website, according to Qatar-based al-Jazeera.

Television stations in Egypt also said that Egyptians were among those who perished, and Badr Abdelatty, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said his country was "still trying to confirm the numbers" of nationals who died.

The fire broke out in the afternoon and was brought under control a few hours later, with survivors moved to other hotels in the city. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the blaze. Many of the victims died of suffocation, officials said after the initial findings.  

Medina is a major religious tourist destination for Muslims. The city is the burial site of the Prophet Muhammad and is Islam's second holiest city after Mecca.