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    Saudi Arabia: four Britons killed after coach hits fuel tanker

    Four Britons have been killed in a coach crash in Saudi Arabia after their bus collided with a petrol tanker, their travel agent has confirmed.
    The crash happened on Saturday morning on the road between the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to Gulfaraz Zaman, a director of Blackburn-based Hashim Travel, which organised the trip.
    A woman and her son were among the dead and the other two victims were a man and woman in their 60s or 70s, he said. All were taking part in an umrah Islamic pilgrimage.
    The crash happened near Al Khalas, a settlement roughly 30 miles north of Mecca, the Foreign Office (FCO) said.
    Many of the 14 other British pilgrims on the bus were injured. Zaman said: “There are broken legs, broken noses, one person has a brain haemorrhage. Those who survived were thrown out of the bus, which set on fire, along with the oil tanker. If you see photographs of the bus there’s just the frame of it left.”
    Five or six remained in hospital with burns and broken limbs, he said.
    Eighteen pilgrims were on the bus at the time, all guests of Hashim Travel. They were from Blackburn, Preston, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Northampton, said Zaman. The youngest, a girl of about six, hurt her head, he said.
    They were halfway through a two-week pilgrimage when the accident happened. Hashim Travel charges £1,150 for the trip, according to its website. While the hajj takes place on fixed dates in the Islamic calendar, pilgrims can go to Mecca to perform the rituals of umrah at any other time of the year.
    FCO representatives were helping the survivors to return home, said Zaman: “All of their belongings have been burned; their passports and everything.”
    The families of the dead have been informed and the travel company has arranged for them to fly out to Saudi Arabia.
    An FCO spokesman confirmed there were British fatalities among the victims, but said details were still emerging. He said: “We are supporting the British families of those who have died and those injured following a serious road traffic accident near the town of Al Khalas, Saudi Arabia.”

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