September 12, 2015
- Saudi authorities investigate a crane accident in the
holy city of Mecca that has claimed more than a hundred
lives as workers do expansion work on the Grand Mosque.
Initial reports say high winds could be a factor.
Just ten day before the annual Hajj
pilgrimage, tragedy has struck at the site of the Grand
Mosque in the holy city of Mecca. Initial reports say
eighty were killed but as the minutes ticked away and
the horror of the tragedy unfolded, more figures have
been emerging with the latest figure putting the deaths
at more than one hundred and many injured.
The BBC reports -
Saudi Arabia has begun an
investigation into why a crane collapsed in the Muslim
holy city of Mecca, killing at least 107 people. The
huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque
as it was filled with worshippers.
Officials say strong winds and heavy
rains caused the crane to fall. Correspondents say there
have previously been concerns about safety records on
Saudi construction sites.
The Grand Mosque, known as the Masjid al-Haram, is the
largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam's
holiest place, the Kaaba.
At least 230 people were injured in
the incident. It is unclear how many people were hurt by
the collapse or the stampede that followed it. The
mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 200
people were injured. The crane was one of a number
around the Grand Mosque being used in construction work.
The incident happened at 17:23 local time (14:23 GMT) on
Videos posted online showed the moment the structure
collapsed, with a loud crash followed by panic and
shouting. Bodies and blood could be seen on the floor of
The head of Saudi Arabia's civil
defence agency, Lt Sulayman Bin-Abdullah al-Amr, said an
investigation was being carried out to assess the
damage, and the "extent of the safety of these sites".
Essam al-Ghalib, a Jeddah-based
journalist, said the crane fell through the outer ring
of the Grand Mosque and punctured through the roof
sending down tonnes of cement and debris onto people
either praying or walking through.
Mecca is currently preparing for the annual Muslim Hajj
pilgrimage. Up to two million people are expected to
arrive in the Saudi city from all over the world later
this month. Irfan Al-Alawi, from the Islamic Heritage
Research Foundation, told the BBC that the Grand Mosque
is currently surrounded by 15 large cranes amid major
"The entire area is like a salvage
yard," Mr Al-Alawi said. "Saudi Arabia has to re-think
its health and safety strategy," he said, "as there were
800,000 people in the mosque area at the time of the
The original parts of the Grand Mosque date back 1,400
years. Consisting of a large square surrounded by
covered prayer areas, the building has since been
extensively modernised, notably from the mid-20th
Century. Saudi authorities began a major expansion of
the site last year to increase the area of the mosque by
400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet), to
allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at
noted - "Photographs of the disaster show a grisly
scene, with police and onlookers attending to numerous
bodies strewn around the polished mosque floor in pools
Scores of worshippers were in the
mosque when the crane collapsed (EPA) Other footage
showed bodies and blood amid the rubble, while dazed and
bloodied survivors staggering past debris in the
immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Saudi Arabia's civil
defense authority provided a series of rising casualty
numbers on its official Twitter account as ambulances
whisked the wounded to area hospitals.
Rubble rained down on the gathered masses as they prayed
(EPA) The nationalities of those caught up in the
disaster were uncertain last night and the Foreign
Office was making inquiries to establish if any Britons
had been killed or injured.
Thousands of Britons are already in
Mecca or are heading there for the Hajj. Sympathy and
tributes were offered by people from around the world
last night and the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted:
“1000s of British people are undertaking #Hajj and we
hope they are safe tonight as tragedy in #Makkah
unfolds. Prayers for all the victims.”
Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of
Britain, said: “Our prayers are directed to those who
have died that God shower them with His mercy. "Our
thoughts are with the families and friends, at this
difficult time, whilst waiting for news. As we pray to
God that He gives full and speedy recovery to all those
”The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
said: "I'm shocked and saddened to hear of the accident
in Mecca involving a large number of fatalities amongst
those attending the Hajj. My thoughts are with the
families of those affected." Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Mansouri,
spokesman for the presidency of the Mecca and Medina
mosque affairs, said in a statement that the accident
happened during a severe storm carrying strong winds and
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 the injured. The Grand Mosque - the Masjid al-Haram
- contains the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped building
which Muslims face when they pray wherever they are in
the world and is Islam's most sacred shrine.
Muslims are expected to perform pilgrimages to the Kaaba
at least once during their lifetimes and once there they
walk around it seven times anti-clockwise in a rite
known as Tawaf.
Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing
expansion and other construction work that has
transformed the area around the sanctuary. The $60
billion redevelopment is being carried out by the Saudi
Binladin Group - owned by Osama Bin Laden’s family.
Daily Mail (UK) has
this account - "It has been confirmed today that this
year's hajj will still go ahead despite the disaster,
and is expected to begin on September 21.
The annual pilgrimage is one of the
largest religious festivals in the world, and last year
drew two million worshipers. One of the five pillars of
Islam requires every able-bodied Muslim to perform the
Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Muslim
faithful from about 160 countries converge on the
Islamic city and other locations in western Saudi Arabia
to complete the holy journey.
A Saudi official, who declined to be
named, said: 'It definitely will not affect the hajj
this season and the affected part will probably be fixed
in a few days.'
The crane fell into the east side of the mosque, with
its boom crashing through the roof, killing at least 107
people - with nine Indian citizens, 16 Pakistanis and 15
Iranians reportedly among the dead.
It is not yet known whether all those
that died were killed by the crane's collapse, as some
reports claim some were killed in a subsequent stampede.
The governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal,
was seen talking with police at the mosque a few hours
after the tragedy.
Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic
Heritage Research Foundation, compared the carnage to
that caused by a bomb.
He suggested authorities were
negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the
'They do not care about the heritage,
and they do not care about health and safety,' he said.
Alawi is an outspoken critic of
redevelopment at the holy sites, which he says is wiping
away tangible links to the Prophet Mohammed.
Online activists created a hashtag on
Twitter last night urging Mecca residents to donate
blood at hospitals in the area, and queues of locals
hoping to help the effort formed at hospitals and
medical centres across the city.
International and respected
Al Jazeera adds -
"Al Jazeera's Hasan Patel, reporting
from Mecca, said witnesses told him that the crane fell
on the third floor of the Grand Mosque at around 5.30pm
on Friday. He said the mosque was packed even though the
incident happened before the 6.30pm prayer.
"Dozens of ambulances headed to the site. The
authorities closed off the area shortly afterwards," he
said. "This whole place is already a giant construction
site. What made it worse is that around 5.30pm there was
severe rain and it was just gushing down the road. "I am
surrounded by people who are grieving. The mood here is
Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the
millions of Muslims who converge on Mecca to perform the
Last year, they reduced the numbers
permitted to make the Hajj pilgrimage on safety grounds
because of construction work to enlarge the Grand
Mosque. The Hajj, one of the largest religious
gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in
the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to
complete rituals and return home.
Security services often ring Islam's
sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to
prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without
Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which
can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have
been intensified in recent years as security threats
grow throughout the Middle East.
Richard Angwin, Al Jazeera's senior weather presenter,
said the autumn period is when half of Mecca's
thunderstorms occur, so "it was no great surprise that
there were thunderstorms in the area".
"The area of low pressure which
brought sandstorms across the Levant region moved
further south, allowing hot, moist air to develop into
thunderstorms along the mountains bordering the Red Sea,
and some of those drifted northwards across Mecca," he
The Malaysia-based news outlet,
the Star states -
"Six Malaysian pilgrims who were at the Grand Mosque in
Mecca during the crane collapse have been declared
missing. Minister in the Prime Ministers Department
Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the six have been
identified but cannot be traced.
"This morning at about 4am Saudi time (9am Malaysian
time), it was said that the six made up of two men and
four women have been identified but not found.
"They might still be somewhere in the
mosque or any of the many small clinics set up around
there. So we are considering all possibilities," he said
during a press conference at the TH hotel in Kelana
Jaya. He asked for the families to be patient and added
that the government are doing their best to trace them.
"In addition to that, 10 other Malaysians have been
injured in the incident. "There are seven men and three
women, all of them are in a stable condition," he said
adding that there were 251 medical personnel on
At present there are a total of 22,320
Malaysian pilgrims in Mecca. The total number of
pilgrims there is currently at 2 million.
We join the many expressing sympathy
to all those affected by this tragedy - relations of the
dead, the injured as well as all those who could be
suffering post traumatic stress even as you read this
We wish them well and prayers that
Allah will have mercy on the dead as He comforts the