RIYADH — As pilgrims from across the world flock to Makkah to perform the life-time hajj rituals, Saudi authorities are striving to prevent repeat of last year’s fatal incidents, which killed hundreds of pilgrims.
“The scheduling program is the most important part of the operational program,” Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Turki told Reuters on Sunday, September 4.
“This is the area we have to concentrate on, to make sure pilgrims…comply with it once they get there.”
Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to e perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Organizing the world’s largest annual Muslim gathering, which brings some two millions to Islam’s most sacred sites in Makkah, Saudi’s reputation was stained after the 2015 disaster that took the lives of 769 pilgrims, according to reports from Riyadh.
This year, efforts are being made to strengthen crowd management.
Thousands of civil servants, security personnel and medics have been conducting drills in preparation for the pilgrimage, which officially starts this week.
The kingdom says it is deploying extra staff and increasing coordination with hajj missions from pilgrims’ home countries to ensure worshippers comply with agreed schedules to perform various rituals.
Hundreds of new surveillance cameras had been installed at the Grand Mosque.
Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat said last month the Makkah Development Authority had set up electronic paths and gates to manage crowds heading to Jamarat, the symbolic stoning of the devil where many previous disasters have occurred.
The kingdom also is kitting pilgrims out with electronic wristbands to enable authorities to track the flow of people and get early warnings of crowd build-ups.