Four hundred and fifty-four pilgrims, the first batch of Ghanaians who performed this year’s Hajj in Saudi Arabia, will arrive in Accra today at about noon.
This year’s Hajj has been beclouded by an unprecedented number of fatalities during a collision between two streams of pilgrims from opposite directions resulting in a stampede. It is the worst fatality in the history of the Hajj, it has been said.
The number of fatalities from the Ghanaian camp according to the Chairman of the Pilgrims Affairs Office, Ghana, Alhaji Tanko Abdul Rauf Ibrahim, has risen from what was earlier announced although the exact number of deaths is yet to be determined.
Given the 29 persons figure as the number of missing Ghanaians, it would appear that Ghanaian fatalities could be in double digits. As for the total number of persons who died in the Jamarat Bridge accident, unofficial estimates stand at over 4,000.
The chairman explained that it has not been easy getting the number of fatalities because of the sorry state of the bodies. Such bodies have had to be quickly interred after their thumb-prints or DNAs taken.
Two Ghanaian officials were present when two bodies were buried earlier, the chairman said.
Communicating with the DAILY GUIDE yesterday at a time when the first batch of pilgrims was heading for Jeddah from Mecca, the chairman denied reports that change in the date in the arrival is blamable on a disagreement between the Saudi Airline and the Pilgrims Affairs Office, Ghana.
“The challenge is attributable to an internal problem between the Nas Airline, the Saudi Airline which has been contracted for the airlift and the return flights, and the Ministry of Hajj Affairs in the Kingdom,” he said.
On the reduced number of pilgrims per flight when the aircraft airlifted 502, he said it is because on the return trips the load is greater than the other way and so the number of passengers has to be reduced.
In future, he said passengers would be entitled to 32 kilos as opposed to the current kilos allowed pilgrims. “There is nothing unusual about this. That is the international standard he explained,” he said
By A.R. Gomda
Source: Daily Guide
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