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Indian pilgrims start returning after Haj

Jeddah: Indian pilgrims have started returning home after performing Haj with 365 flights slated to carry over one lakh people back to the country following a hassle-free pilgrimage.
The first flight carrying 235 Indian pilgrims out of the 1,00,020 coming through the Haj Committee left from here for Kolkata last evening, marking the beginning of the Haj Mission›s operations of sending back pilgrims that will reach its culmination on November 10 when the last flight to India will depart. «Our team is there at the Jeddah Haj Terminal. A coordinator is also there. I am reviewing all arrangements,» Indian Consul General B S Mubarak said.
About 365 flights would carry the pilgrims back to India. Of the 136,020 Indian pilgrims who performed Haj in Saudi Arabia this year, 100,020 came through the Haj Committee of India.
While 49,000 of those who arrived through the Haj Committee will leave from Medina, the rest of the 51,000 Indian pilgrims who have been to the city before Haj will leave from Jeddah itself.
The 36,000 pilgrims who came through private tour operators will go according to their programmes set by the operators from Medina or Jeddah.
More than 4,000 flights are scheduled to transport over one million pilgrims back to their home countries within the next few weeks, said Khalid Al-Harbi, director of Haj services at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah.
«There are 20 per cent more departing flights than arriving flights,» he was quoted as saying by Arab News. «This is due to the fact that thousands made an early arrival at the Medina airport and will leave through Jeddah›s airport,» Al-Harbi said.
Though the formal departure of pilgrims began on Tuesday, pilgrims from neighbouring countries, such as Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council states, began leaving from Monday evening.
«We have three runways at the Haj terminal. The longest runway was 3,600 metres, but the Civil Aviation Authority then extended it to 4,000 metres, enabling the runway to take two planes at a time,» he said. A total of 2,085,238 pilgrims, including 1,389,053 foreigners, performed this year›s Haj which was by large hassle-free.
The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable.

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