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Death toll nears 100 from Saudi floods

  • None of the casualties are Hajj pilgrims
  • Rains on first day of Hajj on Wednesday
  • Deaths occur in Mecca region, Jeddah and north of Jeddah
  • Islam
  • Saudi Arabia

Mecca, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- The death toll from the torrential rains and heavy floods that engulfed western Saudi Arabia this week rose to 98 on Saturday, with dozens of people still missing, Information Ministry officials said.

However, none of the casualties were Hajj pilgrims making the obligatory journey for Muslims around the world, officials said.

The Hajj -- the fifth pillar of Islam -- requires devotees to journey to Mecca at least once in their lives if they can afford to do so.

The Hajj began Wednesday, and pilgrims were inconvenienced by the afternoon-long downpour on the first day of the annual observance.

But the rain had cleared by Wednesday night, making it easy for pilgrims to make their way to Mount Arafat on Thursday, a sweltering and windy but cloudless day where pilgrims trekked to seek forgiveness for their sins.

The deaths occurred in the port city of Jeddah, in Rabigh (north of Jeddah), and in the Mecca region, Saudi authorities said.

Meanwhile, Emir Khaled al-Faisal, who oversees the Mecca area, met with Jeddah's head of infrastructure, Habeeb Zain-Alabdeen, regarding plans to improve the city's drainage system by the end of 2010, the official Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday.