At least hundred-and-seven people died when a crane collapsed inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Friday evening.
More than 200 suffered heavy injuries when a powerful storm toppled the crane, casting a grim shadow on a yearly pilgrimage that draws millions to the Kingdom. The huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque as it was filled with worshipers.
The crane fell after a strong thunderstorm hit the city, bringing gusty winds that shifted direction and caused the local temperatures to drop. The storm was so strong, it uprooted trees and broke windows throughout Makkah.
The injured and others were rushed to the nearby hospitals for urgent medical care. Hours later, the representatives of several countries visited the hospitals to identify their citizens. The diplomats were able to identify the wounded but there are no reports about the identification of the dead. Those killed are believed to include Indonesian, Indian, Iranian and Egyptian citizens.
Saudi official blames the stormy winds that knocked over the crane in the largest mosque. “Heavy rain and strong winds of unusually high speed led to the uprooting of trees, the fall of panels and the collapse of the crane,” said General Suleiman Al-Amr, director general of the Civil Defense Authority.
Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal ordered an immediate inquiry into the disaster. He reached the accident site soon after the tragedy occurred and urged authorities to provide the best treatment to the injured.
The incident has raised certain safety concerns for the visitors as the construction site is surrounded by 15 giant construction cranes, being used for ongoing expansion work. The crane fell less than two weeks before the start of the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage expected to bring 2 million people to the Holy city of Makkah.
On Saturday, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited the site of the crane collapse. The ruler gave his condolences to the victims’ families and vowed to investigate the cause of the mishap. He also visited a medical facility where he wished the wounded a speedy recovery.
Saudi authorities began a major expansion of the site last year to increase the area of the mosque by 400,000 square meters to allow it to accommodate about 2 million people at once. IMAGE/Reuters