Four British pilgrims killed in Saudi road crash

Four British Umrah pilgrims were killed and 12 others were injured in Saudi Arabia on Saturday when their bus collided with a fuel tanker.

Raj Begum Hussain, 70, from Blackburn, died alongside an elderly man and a mother and her grown-up son, all from Preston, Lancashire.

Mrs Hussain – a mother of six and a grandmother of 13 – was travelling with her younger sister who survived but was injured.

“She will be sorely missed by all family and friends. We would like to thank the whole community for their condolences and support at this difficult time,” her family said in a statement.

It is understood that a young child was also among the injured.

The crash occurred near the town of Al Khalas while the pilgrims were on their way to Makkah. Passengers on the bus were from Accrington, Preston, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Northampton and Blackburn.

“The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London is working with (Britain’s) Foreign Office to issue emergency visas immediately to both the relatives of the four pilgrims who died as well as to families of the 12 British pilgrims who were injured,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The injured have been taken to a hospital in Makkah where everything possible is being done to care for them.”

The statement said 17 British pilgrims were aboard the bus.

“My sincere sympathies and thoughts are with the families of the four British pilgrims who tragically died in a coach crash in the Kingdom on Saturday and for the pilgrims who were injured,” Saudi Ambassador to Britain Mohammed bin Nawaf, tweeted. “Our prayers are with these families at this tragic time.”

Blackburn-based Hashim Travel organised the trip. Its company’s director, Gulfaraz Zaman, called the incident “horrendous” and “very distressing”.

“If you see the remains of the bus, there’s just the metal frame of it that’s left,” he told the BBC.  “It’s very upsetting – especially the people that have passed away,” he added, “our thoughts are with the families.”

He said visas had been arranged for family members of the deceased who were now travelling out to Saudi Arabia.

The Council of British Hajjis said it was providing support to a British family which had been affected.

In a brief statement, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said: “We are supporting the British families of those who have died.”

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