The Makkah Clock Royal Tower. The Ministry of Haj has set the end of Shaaban (August 9) as the last date to issue Umrah visas for the current season. Image Credit: AFP

Riyadh: Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal has endorsed a 10-year plan to ease traffic congestion and overcrowding of pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat outside Makkah.

Prince Khaled, who is also chairman of the Makkah and Holy Sites Development Authority, showed a video presentation of a plan for the pedestrian movement inside the Grand Mosque and the courtyards surrounding it which was prepared by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Haj Research.


The presentation also included a display of alternative ideas to remedy the overcrowding inside the mosque.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Red Crescent announced the launch of five helicopters for emergency airlifting of sick pilgrims during the Haj.

"For the first time this Haj season, helicopters will be used in addition to 111 ambulances. Six buses will be used as mobile operation theatres in addition to many vans for medical supplies," Media Director of the Red Crescent Ahmad Barayan said in a press statement.

Round-the-clock service

Vehicles with oxygen supply and mobile workshops are also kept ready in Makkah and the holy sites, he said.

He said the ambulance helicopters will serve emergency and accident cases round the clock.

Currently the helicopter service is available in Riyadh, Jeddah and on the Jeddah-Makkah highway.

Sami Badr, director of Haj Terminal at the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, said 14 lounges with an hourly capacity for 3,800 incoming pilgrims and 3,500 outgoing pilgrims have been kept ready for the Haj.

Arrangements have been made with more than 55 airline companies to transport pilgrims.

Theft: Iron rails stolen

A diplomat of the Chinese embassy in Saudi Arabia said iron material stocked for the holy sites rail network in Makkah has been stolen in a systematic manner.

"The theft reported by the Makkah police was not the first incident," Al Watan quoted the diplomat as saying. According to recent reports, police had arrested two Chinese rail workers for their involvement in the sale of five loads of stolen iron material to a Saudi national for 125,000 riyals.

"We have complained many times. Our company has officially demanded the police to protect the company facilities."