Fire in hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia; 600 people evacuated

RIYADH (AFP) - A hotel in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, where two million Muslims will perform the annual haj pilgrimage, was evacuated on Monday (Aug 21) after a fire broke out, the civil defence service said.

Civil defence spokesman Nayef al-Sharif said no casualties were reported in the fire, which was sparked by a faulty air conditioning unit on the eighth floor of a hotel in the Azaziyah district of Mecca.

All 600 residents, most of whom had come from Turkey and Yemen for the haj pilgrimage, were evacuated and have since returned to the hotel, Sharif said.

The haj draws Muslims from around the world to the western Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and the most revered site in Islam.

The pilgrimage, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once, will take place in the first week of September.