Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia has stepped up security and emergency procedures within the Grand Mosque in Mecca in preparation for the arrival of Hajj pilgrims later this month.
26 Saudi Civil Defense units have been deployed in the Grand Mosque to provide security and emergency services to pilgrims. The units will be stationed in the nave of the Tawaf, where pilgrims make the circumambulation of the Kaaba, and the Mas’a, where pilgrims walk between the two hills of Safa and Marwah.
They will be tasked with providing first aid, and carrying out medical evacuation of the injured, and elderly pilgrims who may encounter health problems during the Tawaf and Mas’a process.
Colonel Awad Mohamed Al-Sobhi, commander of the Civil Defense forces in the Grand Mosque, said all units were prepared for emergency situations both inside and outside the mosque, including the provision of first aid and dealing with accidents arising from bad weather and overcrowding at the mosque entrance and the Tawaf nave.
The Civil Defense deployment comes as part of a comprehensive contingency plan to handle emergencies during this year’s pilgrimage, in anticipation of the enormous number of pilgrims expected at the Grand Mosque in the coming days.
The colonel said that units and field teams will be deployed in specific locations to quickly intervene should accidents occur. Colonel Sobhi added that planning is currently underway to raise the number of Civil Defense units during the busiest hours to 35, all of which will be equipped with ambulances, respirators and vehicles to transport infirm and the injured.
Colonel Sobhi said that 850 officers and soldiers will be deployed both inside and in the vicinity of the mosque during the pilgrimage this year. This also includes a number of specialized units trained in crowd control, apart from support and assistance troops and medics from the Saudi Red Crescent.
Colonel Sobhi added, “The number of [medical] cases on the first days of the pilgrimage range between 2,000 and 3,000, the majority being injuries resulted by either falling on the floor or sliding on the escalators, or exhaustion suffered by the elderly, or by those who suffer from diabetes or hypertension.”
A total of 1,166 CCTV cameras have been installed throughout the Grand Mosque in order to increase security, according to Maj. Gen. Yahya Al-Zahrani, commander of the special forces for the Grand Mosque’s security.
“These cameras are installed to monitor the movement of pilgrims inside the mosque to ensure their security and safety,” he said.