November 25, 2009: Freak Flood Kills 122 at Saudi Arabia Hajj

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A Brief History

On November 25, 2009, almost 3 inches of rain fell in only 4 hours on the Western Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah located on the Red Sea.  The city was celebrating the Eid al-Adah festival (Feast of the Sacrifice) during the annual Hajj, a Muslim tradition of making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during every Muslim’s life.  Double the normal annual rainfall, the downpour created a flash flood that swept away over 3000 cars and killed at least 122 people.

Digging Deeper

Jeddah, being close to Mecca, is a normal place to pass through on the way to Mecca for the annual Hajj, and nearly all the victims of the flood were Muslim faithful on their way to Mecca.  Another 350 people were initially reported missing, many of which were later found when their swept away vehicles were recovered.  Mecca had also endured pouring rain on November 25, 2009, the first day of the Hajj, drenching the 1.6 million pilgrims that were largely housed in tents.  The weather “improved” on November 26th, or at least the rain stopped, but searing heat replaced the rain and made the pilgrims suffer.

Due to the normally ultra-dry climate in which rain barely falls each year, the storm sewer system in Jeddah only covered about 30% of the city, and even that area served by anti-flood sewers were not equipped to deal with the massive amount of rain that fell.  Luckily, the number of pilgrims making the Hajj in 2009 was a bit down due to a world-wide epidemic of influenza.

Eid al-Adah, Festival of Sacrifice, is one of 2 Muslim “Eid” holidays celebrated each year and is considered the holier of the 2 holidays.  The event being celebrated is the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his own son to prove his loyalty to God.

On October 23 we featured an article titled 10 Religious Activity Disasters (What Do They Mean?) in which we discuss 10 times a church or religion related activity led to tragedy, and invited our readers to weigh in on their opinion of what such disasters mean, if anything.  Feel free to add your own thoughts on the subject of tragedies and disasters that happen to religious events, churches, activities, etc.  Question for students (and subscribers): Are they mere coincidences?  Is God testing the faithful?  Is God handing out punishment?  Is God showing his power?  You tell us in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Peters, F. E.  The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places.  Princeton University Press, 1994.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Rami Awad of a tunnel in King Abdullah Street (JeddahSaudi Arabia), is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.