A towering construction crane collapsed on Friday during a violent rainstorm in Saudi Arabia’s city of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing at least 107 people ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage later this month.
Videos and photos posted by social media users showed a grisly scene, with police and onlookers attending to bloodied bodies on the polished mosque floors.
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Saudi Arabia’s civil defense authority provided a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. As of late Friday, it said those injured in the disaster numbered 238.
More info: History of Grand Mosque of Mecca
A photo posted online by the authority showed police and workers in hardhats inspecting a pile of collapsed concrete slabs inside a part of the sprawling, ornately decorated mosque. Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary. [flagallery gid=171] Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Mansouri, the spokesman for the presidency of the Mecca and Medina mosque affairs, said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency that the accident happened late Friday afternoon during a severe storm carrying strong winds and heavy rain. Al-Mansouri said the crane, which was being used in construction work at the mosque, struck a circular area around the Kaaba and a nearby walkway. Authorities did not provide details on the victims’ nationalities, but it was likely that the tragedy will touch several countries. The Grand Mosque and the cube-shaped Kaaba within it draw Muslims of all types from around the world throughout the year, though numbers increase significantly in the run-up to the hajj. The mosque is Islam’s holiest site to which Muslims face in daily prayers and a central site among the hajj rituals. https://youtu.be/WrYujM47iWs Performing the pilgrimage once during one’s lifetime is a duty for all able-bodied adult Muslims. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to start around Sept. 22. Pan-satellite Al-Jazeera Television broadcast footage from inside the mosque compound said to be from the aftermath of the accident, showing the floor strewn with rubble and what appear to be pools of blood. Another video, on a Twitter posting, captured the apparent moment of the crane’s collapse during a heavy rainstorm, with a loud boom, screams and confusion.
The governor of the Mecca region, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, quickly called for the formation of a committee to investigate the cause of the accident. He directed all appropriate authorities to provide support for all of those injured, according to a statement from Mecca principality public affairs head Sultan al-Dosari that was carried on SPA
Steep hills and low-rise traditional buildings that once surrounded the mosque have in recent years given way to shopping malls and luxury hotels — among them the world’s third-tallest building, a giant clock tower that is the centerpiece of the Abraj al-Bait complex.
The construction giant Saudi Binladin Group is leading the mosque expansion and also built the Abraj al-Bait project.
Crane collapses at Mecca mosque in Saudi ArabiaAt least 65 people were killed and scores were wounded Friday when a crane collapsed in the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia's civil defense authority said.
The Binladin family has been close to the ruling Al Saud family for decades and oversees major building projects around the country. The Binladen family disowned one of its many members, late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in the 1990s.
It was not immediately clear who owned the crane that collapsed or whether it was involved in the expansion of the mosque or another project nearby.
Story compiled with information from the Associated Press.
Zainab Al-Suwaij on the crane collapse in Saudi Arabia
For more on the accident and the Hajj pilgrimage, CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Zainab Al-Suwaij from the U.S. state of Maryland. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Islamic Congress.