Saudi authorities conduct drills to test hajj rescue operations

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Saudi security forces on Thursday conducted a successful fire drill on a bus which can carry around 50 pilgrims from Madinah towards holy sites in Makkah.

The fire drill tested the response of the emergency units in the case of a fire, examining how they would intervene to help protect the pilgrims.

The chairman of the national establishment for pilgrims from Arab countries, Faisal Noah, voiced the importance of this drill in developing the skills and capabilities of workers at security and emergency units.

He also said that the establishment's total number of civil services' groups is 172 and that these groups, which serve 300,000 pilgrims from Arab countries, have finalized and implemented their preparations.

The kingdom’s emergency units conducted the fire drill in Medina's al-Hijra road. Civil defense forces and Red Crescent units were among the participants in the experiment.

The Saudi Minister of Health Abdullah al-Rabeea said on Wednesday that his ministry has devised a thorough plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims during this year’s hajj season.

“We expanded the presence of healthcare workers, a total of 22,000, at all facilities in Mecca, Medina and (other) holy sites in order to follow up on all cases that may (medically) pose a threat to pilgrims,” Rabeea told Al Arabiya.

He also said that the ministry's preparations for this year's hajj season began at the end of last year's season, adding that the aim of early preparations is to detail all previous mistakes and thus avoid them during this year.

“We seek to provide the best healthcare services to pilgrims. We do this through coordinating with the World Health Organization and [other] international health organizations to gather information about all the countries from which pilgrims come,” he said.

“We then study this information, implement all requirements and order different vaccines which we specify according to the country,” the minister added.

Rabeea also said that the number of specialized hospitals in place in the vicinity of Makkah and Madinah during the hajj season is 25: four in Arafat, four in Mina, seven in Mecca - in addition to King Abdullah Medical City - and nine in Madinah.

He added that there are also 141 preliminary healthcare centers at holy sites: 46 in Arafat, six in Muzdalifah, 28 in Mina and the rest are distributed between Mecca and Madinah.