Middle East

Couple die of thirst in Saudi southern desert

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A husband and wife have died of thirst after losing their way in Saudi Arabia's vast southern desert, known as the Empty Quarter.

Security forces had mounted a major operation to try to find the couple, who were from Qatar, after a relative raised the alert.

The woman was found near the couple's overturned vehicle and a helicopter found her husband 10km (6 miles) away.

Temperatures in the region can rise well above 50C.

It seems the husband made a desperate attempt to find help - or simply water - in the desert's vast, inhospitable expanse.

Vast waste

The desert is known as the Empty Quarter because its bone-dry surface discourages anyone from living there, except a few Bedouin who use it seasonally.

The largest uninterrupted desert in the world, stretching 1,000km across the lower third of the Arabian peninsula, it has exerted a spell on explorers trying to unveil its mysteries.

Its sand dunes can rise as tall as high-rise buildings.

Lost oasis cities are believed to lie beneath the sand, which feels only a few centimetres of rainfall a year.

More prosaically, it contains some of the richest oil fields in the world.

There are roads that skirt its outer edges but special permits are needed to explore it more deeply.

Reports suggest that the Qatari couple were driving from an estate they owned in the desert, so they would have been well aware that help would be hard to find if - as seems to have happened - anything went wrong with their vehicle.

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