2002 Public Statement

Washington Embassy's statement on the tragic fire at a Makkah school
In response to reports regarding the tragic fire at a girls' school in the holy city of Makkah [on Monday, March 11, 2002], the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia today released the following statement.

Reports that actions by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were instrumental in causing the deaths and injuries of Saudi students are false. The reason that 15 lives were lost is a direct result of the lack of safety precautions undertaken prior to the deadly fire. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz has promised the families of the dead and injured that those officials responsible for the tragedy would be held accountable.  

Furthermore, a Royal Decree issued March 24 relieved the head of the General Presidency for Girls' Education of his duties and merged the forty-year-old agency into the Ministry of Education.  

Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz stated: “What happened at Intermediate Girls' School No. 31 in Makkah ......  is unacceptable.”  He warned that action would be taken against “negligent, incompetent and careless” officials, and ordered that a team be immediately assigned to inspect all school and university buildings throughout the Kingdom.

In response to the incident and the great loss incurred, the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is therefore taking the following actions:

  1. Launching a full-scale investigation into the cause of the fire and the events of the evacuation of the school building.

  1. Reassessing every school throughout the country for safety, with modifications made to each school needing more and/or updated safety equipment.  Furthermore, events such as fire drills and other preparedness exercises are to take place in Saudi schools in the future.

  1. Increasing the number of new schools being built in Saudi Arabia from the current rate of 50 schools per year to over 350 new schools annually in order to ensure that Saudi schools have the most modern and safest facilities possible.

The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia is saddened by the injuries and loss of life suffered by students at Girls' Intermediate School No. 31, and wishes to give assurances that steps are being taken to prevent another tragedy of this magnitude ever happening again.