Fire forces 1,000 Asian pilgrims from Mecca hotel

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - About 1,000 Asian pilgrims were evacuated early Thursday (Sept 17) from their hotel in the Saudi city of Mecca, hit by a fire that injured two people, the civil defence agency said.

Firefighters "rescued two pilgrims who were hurt" by the fire in an eighth-floor room of the unnamed hotel, the agency said.

More than one million faithful have already arrived in Mecca for this year's haj, which begins on Tuesday (Sept 22).

The agency also did not give the nationality of the pilgrims, nor say what caused the blaze.

The haj is the world's biggest annual event. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once.

The haj has been almost incident-free for the past decade, but at least 107 people, including some from Asia, died on Friday (Sept 11) when a construction crane collapsed on Mecca's Grand Mosque.