45 jailed over Saudi's deadly 2009 floods: report

JEDDAH (AFP) - A Saudi court has jailed 45 people including government officials in connection with deadly flooding five years ago in Jeddah, reports said Monday.

The 2009 floods killed 123 people, left thousands homeless and provoked unprecedented outrage in the kingdom's second-largest city.

King Abdullah sought legal action against officials and contractors for alleged corruption, mismanagement of real estate and land planning that exacerbated the inundation.

The Arab News said a court convicted 45 people who were sentenced to various jail terms. It did not give details of the sentences.

They were also fined more than 14 million riyals (S$4.87 million) in total, the report said.

It provided no names but said the defendants included "high-ranking officials... academics, engineers, businessmen and foreign workers".

They were charged with offences including bribery, forgery, misuse of public money, engaging in illegal business and money laundering, Arab News said.

The inability of Jeddah's infrastructure to drain off flood waters and uncontrolled construction in and around the Red Sea city were blamed at the time for the high number of victims.

A huge rainstorm sparked the flash floods which overwhelmed Jeddah's limited infrastructure.

More than 11,000 people joined a Facebook page to protest over the floods, charging that the city government and contractors were at fault.

About 10 people died two years later when additional floods swept through the city.

But the authorities have since 2009 carried out major infrastructure improvements in an effort to guard against such disasters.