Hajj stampede: Family locate relative in Saudi Arabia hospital after seeing her image on Independent website

Around 20,000 Britons are understood to be making the annual pilgrimage this year with a number of families still waiting for news

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The Independent Online

A British family who faced a desperate four-day wait for news about a grandmother missing in Saudi Arabia following the Hajj stampede were able to find out she is still alive thanks to a photograph in The Independent.

Fatima Bibi Bodi, 67, was thrown to the ground and knocked unconscious in the crush that killed more than 700 people near Mina on 24 September, and was taken to hospital in an ambulance.

But her son, who was with her during the incident, was not told where she was being taken and her family spent the past few days trying to find out if she is alive. They contacted The Independent after we published a photograph that showed Mrs Bodi being placed into the ambulance. 

Mrs Bodi recovering in hospital in Mecca after being caught up in the Hajj tragedy last week

Members of the family managed to email the picture to a doctor, who is a friend of a  friend and who by chance works at  the Mecca hospital where Mrs Bodi was taken. The doctor confirmed that she has been undergoing treatment and is still alive.

Mrs Bodi’s son-in-law Yacoob Bodi, told The Independent: “She fell down when the stampede began, but was able to get back to her feet. Then she was knocked down again and fell unconscious. We were 99.9 per cent certain that the photograph showed her being placed into the ambulance. 

“Nobody would tell us anything and the photograph was the only information that we had. My brother-in-law went to every hospital three or four times. They would not let him inside to see if she was there. They just kept telling him that they would release information when it became available.”

Mrs Bodi, who has four daughters and a son, lives in Burma. She was part of a group of pilgrims from the country who travelled to Mecca together. Her daughter, Salma, 38, and son-in-law, Yacoob, 46, live in Preston in Lancashire.

Mr Bodi said: “It has been a nightmare for us. Thankfully, a doctor at the hospital recognised the picture, along with another picture of her that we sent as a back-up. We’re just so relieved. Thanks to that photograph, she has been found.”

The crush occurred early on 24 September as two large groups of pilgrims converged on a narrow street in the worst disaster to occur during the annual pilgrimage in 25 years.

Around 20,000 Britons are understood to be making the annual pilgrimage this year with a number of families still waiting for news.

Flights carrying some of the survivors of the stampede were due to land in the UK in 27 September.

The tragedy has led to an escalation of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called on Saudi Arabia to apologise for the stampede, which killed 136 Iranians. But Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of “playing politics” with the tragedy. Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir responded to Iran’s criticism by telling reporters in New York: “I believe that the Iranians should know better than to play politics with a tragedy that has befallen people who were performing their most sacred duty, which is the pilgrimage.”

The Saudi ambassador to London, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has directed all the resources at its disposal to care for the victims, and complete the investigation.

“It is still unclear if any British nationals are among the deceased or injured. The Saudi Arabian authorities will provide further information as the investigations develop.”