Thirty-five foreigners were killed and four others injured when a bus collided with another heavy vehicle near the Islamic holy city of Medina, Saudi state media said on Thursday.
The accident on Wednesday evening involved the collision of “a private chartered bus… with a heavy vehicle” near the western city, a spokesman for Medina police said, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Those involved were Arab and Asian pilgrims travelling from Medina to Mecca, according to local media, which carried pictures of the bus engulfed in flames and with its windows blown out.
The injured have been transferred to Al-Hamna Hospital, SPA added. Authorities have launched an investigation.
The Okaz newspaper said that the victims were expatriates who lived in the kingdom and who were performing the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to the Muslim holy places which can be undertaken year round.
This year, some 2.5 million faithful travelled to Saudi Arabia from across the world in August to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage — one of the five pillars of Islam.
The hajj and the umrah centre on the western city of Mecca and its surrounding hills and valleys, but the itinerary also often takes in the other holy city of Medina.
Last year, a high-speed train line was opened linking Mecca and Medina in just two and a half hours, halving the previous travel time.
Prince Faisal bin Salman, the governor of Medina region, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, SPA said.
Pakistan said four people survived the bus crash, including one of its nationals, while several other Pakistani citizens were killed.
“It has been reported that 35 passengers out of total 39 lost their lives,” the foreign ministry in Islamabad said in a statement.
“Initial reports indicate that the deceased also include a certain number of Pakistani nationals. Of the four (4) survivors, there is one Pakistani named Mr. Akbar, who is seriously injured,” it added.