RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi King Abdullah on Monday called for the prosecution of an unstated number of officials and businessmen after a flood in Jeddah last year killed at least 123 people and sparked a rare outburst of public anger.
Abdullah said in a royal order that justice ministry prosecutors should take action on cases of alleged corruption and malfeasance in managing city construction and land which may have exacerbated the November 25 disaster.
Citing “the magnitude of this calamity and its tragic aftermath,” he said officials should “inflict the deterrent Islamic punishment on all those who are proven to be guilty or careless in this.”
The order was published on the official news agency SPA.
It came a month after Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of the Mecca region which includes Jeddah, presented the king with the results of preliminary investigations into the flood.
Thousands of families were left homeless by the inundation of the Red Sea coast city of more than three million after heavy rains in the mountains to the east sent water gushing down into the coastal plain.
More than 10,785 buildings were wrecked and 10,850 vehicles destroyed, according to official statistics.
Prince Khaled’s investigators interrogated dozens of current and former city officials, contractors and businessmen, focusing on why Jeddah’s infrastructure failed to drain the water as it should have done.
They also focused on why land set aside for drainage routes around the city had been overbuilt with commercial and residential buildings, often with ostensibly legal land ownership documents.
The original inquiry came after an unprecedented, mostly Internet-channelled outburst from Jeddah residents over the flood, with many asking why years of infrastructure planning and billions of dollars had left the city still vulnerable and unprepared.
With many people calling for an investigation into city and regional managers, Abdullah ordered the initial probe into what went wrong.