Saudi Arabia to introduce hi-tech bracelets in Hajj safety push

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will introduce electronic identification bracelets for all Hajj pilgrims this year, Saudi media said on Thursday, as part of a safety drive a year after the annual Islamic rite suffered its deadliest disaster in a generation.

As many as 2,070 people died in a crush when thousands of pilgrims converged on a walkway intersection near the holy city of Makkah last September, according to a Reuters count, the highest loss of life at the annual pilgrimage since 1990.

That death toll is based on figures of fatalities provided by countries who repatriated the bodies of their citizens.

Containing personal and medical information, the bracelets will help authorities provide care and identify people, the official Saudi Press Agency SPA said.

Water-resistant and connected to GPS, the devices will also instruct worshippers on timings of prayers and a multi-lingual help desk to guide especially non-Arabic speaking pilgrims around the various rituals of the annual Islamic event.

Saudi Arabia oversees the annual pilgrimage to Makkah by more than two million Muslims from around the world.

The Hajj, the world’s largest annual gathering of Muslims, has witnessed numerous deadly stampedes, fires and riots in the past with authorities having only limited ability to control the masses.

Nearly a thousand new surveillance cameras were installed this month at Makkah’s Grand Mosque and linked to control rooms staffed by special forces monitoring pilgrim movements for the event scheduled for August, Saudi newspapers reported.

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