Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Security services across Saudi Arabia were on high alert on Monday in attempt to discover the fate of two women from the Untied Arab Emirates who disappeared after a building collapse in Mecca earlier this month.
The eight-storey Luluat al-Khair hotel, on al Ghazal Street , came down just before the end of midday prayers. Situated close to the Grand Mosque, it was used by foreign pilgrims. At least 76 people died and dozens were injured, including some who had been praying in the streets when the building collapsed.
Mona Abdul Hussein, aged 29, a mother of four, and Halima Abdullah Suleiman, aged 33, a mother of six, had travel from the UAE with their uncle Rashed Said to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage) but disappeared after the hotel collapsed.
“After praying, they accompanied other women to the market which is nearby to buy a few items. In the meantime, the hotel collapsed and they have disappeared without a trace,” Rashed said.
The women’s husbands and uncle searched amongst the bodies that were removed from the wreckage and visited local hospitals but “We didn’t find them among the injured in the accident”, the uncle added.
The distraught families have not ruled out that the two women were kidnapped in the chaos that ensued after the building collapsed as the electricity was cut off and crowds gathered to assist with the rescue efforts. “No doubt the sound of sirens and police cars and the confusion scared them,” he said.
“We met Mecca Governor Prince Abdul Majid on Saturday. He vowed to boost search efforts in different regions until we learn what happened to them.”
“I believe the likelihood of finding them or at least information about them has increased as a result of renewed efforts by the security services and the publicity by the media.”
Ahmad Ziyab, spoke with sadness about the disappearance of his wife Haleema and said, “After the incident, I went to Mecca to search for her amongst the dead and injured but I didn’t find her.”
“We don’t know what happened to her. We didn’t recover the body to confirm she is dead,” he added. “Undoubtedly, she had been kidnapped. There is no explanation for her disappearance except that she was kidnapped.”