JEDDAH, 8 December 2007 — With the completion of the third phase of a high-tech Jamrat bridge project in Mina, the stoning ritual has been made much easier and trouble-free for the nearly three million pilgrims who are expected to perform Haj this year. The SR4.2-billion facility can now accommodate 360,000 pilgrims per hour.
“The project’s third phase has been completed and is now ready for pilgrims to use for stoning the devil,” said Habeeb Zainul Abideen, deputy minister of municipal and rural affairs.
The minister said the project was designed to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims who come for Haj every year and avoid stampedes and other accidents that have taken place in the past when pilgrims gathered in Jamrat for stoning.
During last year’s Haj, pilgrims used the structure in Mina for the first time. The first phase increased the bridge’s capacity to 250,000 pilgrims an hour. It also brought about a qualitative change in public safety measures and helped pilgrims perform the stoning ritual without any reported accidents.
Zainul Abideen said the second level of the bridge, which was completed this year, would receive pilgrims coming from the Makkah side after performing tawaf al-ifada — the obligatory circumambulation of the Kaaba in Haj. The second level will have two entrances; the southern entrance is for pilgrims coming from Aziziya and the northern one for those coming from Adel, Shisha and the Pedestrian Road.
Abideen said the new system would ensure the smooth flow of pilgrims in Mina while coming to and from the Jamrat. The newly established three one-way roads near Jamrat would help transport 150,000 to 200,000 pilgrims per hour. These new roads, which are linked to the second floor of the bridge, will reduce pressure on the ground floor and the first floor.
The ground floor and first floor have an average width of 70 meters, an engineer working for the project said, adding that the area near the pillars stoned in the Jamrat ritual was 80 meters wide. “We have also expanded the width of pillars to 30 meters to help a large number of pilgrims perform the stoning ritual at one time,” he said. According to Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Interior Ministry, authorities have instructed to ensure a balance between the numbers of pilgrims on the Jamrat bridge and the Grand Mosque in Makkah. “We have reached an agreement with the Ministry of Haj and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs to keep the capacity of the bridge at 240,000 pilgrims per hour considering the capacity of the Grand Mosque,” Turki said.
Gen. Turki said special security forces would be deployed in the holy sites to control the movement of pilgrims heading toward Jamrat like last year. Haj security forces last year introduced a special plan to help 1.25 million pilgrims complete the stoning ritual in five hours
The Civil Defense Department has called upon pilgrims not to rush to carry out the stoning ritual at peak times in order to avoid overcrowding and stampedes and thus not to put their lives and those of their fellow pilgrims at risk. It also advised pilgrims not to carry any baggage while going to the Jamrat as it would obstruct free flow of pilgrims.
see also Jamarat Project post