By Conrad Egbert
Disaster-prone bridge near the holy city of Makkah is set to be demolished after Hajj stampede tragedy.
Contractor Saudi Bin Ladin has started to demolish the disaster-prone Jamarat bridge in Mena, Saudi Arabia and build a US $1.12 billion (SR4.2 billion) replacement on the site.
The move follows last week’s tragedy, when 360 pilgrims lost their lives in a stampede on the bridge, during the stoning ritual on the last day of the Hajj.
More 5000 construction workers have already started work on the project, which will take three years to complete.
And the Bin Ladin Group has already established a pre-cast concrete block plant nearby to supply the project.
“The first stage of the projected overhaul of Jamarat bridge in Mena has begun and will be completed and ready for next year’s Hajj,” said Osama Al Bar, who heads a government centre that helps organise the Hajj.
The first stage involves the construction of a two-storey bridge and an underground emergency exit.
The pilgrims were crushed at the eastern entrance of the bridge as they jostled to perform the stoning ritual in Mena, a narrow valley near the holy city of Makkah.
Around 2.5 million Muslims performed the Hajj this year, and the death toll was the worst since 1990, when 1426 people were killed in a stampede in a tunnel.
Bodies covered in white shrouds littered the Jamarat area, as medics tended to the injured on stretchers. The bodies were driven away in ambulances and refrigerated trucks.
Saudi security forces set up a tight cordon around the Jamarat bridge to control the crowds, as many pilgrims thronged to carry on stoning three walls in a symbolic casting out of the devil and rejection of temptation.
In 2004, 250 pilgrims were crushed to death at Jamarat bridge. A decade earlier, 270 were killed in a similar stampede.
The new bridge will have an air conditioning system and ambulances will be able to access both floors of the structure.
The ground and first level will be for pilgrims coming in from east Mena while the second level, will be for pilgrims coming from the Makkah side.
The third will be for those entering from north Mena, and the fourth level will be designated for use by pilgrims entering from south Makkah, along King Abdul Aziz Road.