At least 107 people were killed and 238 others injured after a crane fell in Makkah’s Grand Mosque, according to Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defence authority, reports Reuters.
Ahmed Bin Mohammad Al Mansoori, spokesman for the two Holy Mosques, was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying part of a crane collapsed at 5:10 pm (1410 GMT) “as a result of strong winds and heavy rains.”
Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP he saw the crane fall after being hit by the storm.
“If it weren’t for Al-Tawaf bridge the injuries and deaths would have been worse,” he said, referring to a covered walkway that surrounds the Holy Kaaba, which broke the crane’s fall. The governor of Makkah region, Prince Khaled Al Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident, which came just weeks before the Muslim annual Haj pilgrimage.
No details were immediately available on the nationalities of the victims. Iran’s official Irna news agency, quoting the head of the Haj Organisation, said that 15 Iranian pilgrims were among those injured. The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a “crane fell at the Grand Mosque.” That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah was “witnessing medium to heavy rains”.
Kuwait News Agency Kuna reported that the “giant” crane’s fall was caused by heavy rain and strong winds in Makkah.
Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary.
Health authorities declared a red alert and the head of the Red Crescent in Makkah said that 39 ambulances were promptly dispatched to the mosque to treat and transport the injured.
The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer. It houses the Kaaba – the massive cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray.
Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and masses of debris from a part of the crane that seemed to have crashed through a ceiling.
Here’s how things stand at the moment:
- A construction crane has crashed through the eastern side of Mecca’s Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia, the holy building at the centre of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
- 87 people are dead and 201 people are injured according to the Saudi civil defence authority’s Twitter posts.
- Extreme weather is the likely cause of the collapse, authorities said, with heavy rain, lightning strikes and high winds hitting the Muslim holy city on Friday, 10 days before the start of the hajj.
- Reconstruction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque had been ongoing for the past two years and was expected to be largely completed before this year’s pilgrimage, which begins on 22 September.
- The construction work was being led by the construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, but it is not yet known which company the crane belonged to.
- Saudi investigators are still ascertaining the identities of the dead and injured, but India said nine of its citizens were among the wounded.
- Images from inside the mosque show an enormous crater in the mosque’s stone floor, with pictures on social media of bodies covered in debris and blood stains on the tiles.
- The governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident.