Hajj to go ahead after Mecca crane collapse kills 107

  • Agencies, Mecca, Saudi Arabia
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:54 IST
Saudi emergency crew evacuate a dead man after a construction crane crashed in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Reuters Photo)

Saudi authorities said Saturday the annual hajj pilgrimage would go ahead despite a crane collapse that killed 107 people at Mecca's Grand Mosque, where crowds returned to pray a day after the disaster.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims have already arrived in Mecca for the hajj, one of the world's largest religious gatherings which last year drew two million worshippers.

Parts of the Grand Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, remained sealed off Saturday around the remains of the red and white crane, accentuating the crush of humanity inside.

Worshippers thronged the mosque as the midday call to prayer sounded, according to an AFP reporter.

Indonesians and Indians were among those killed when the crane collapsed during a storm on what is the main weekly prayer day for Muslims. Around 200 others were injured.

A Saudi official said this year's hajj, expected to start on September 21, would proceed despite the tragedy.

"It definitely will not affect the hajj this season and the affected part will probably be fixed in a few days," said the official, who declined to be named.

As world leaders offered condolences, the governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, ordered an investigation into the incident.

Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP he saw the massive construction crane fall after being hit by the storm.

Read|Mecca Grand Mosque accident: 2 Indians killed, 15 others injured

"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 Kaaba is a massive cube-shaped structure at the centre of the mosque towards which Muslims worldwide pray.

Saudis and foreigners lined up on Friday night to give blood in response to the tragedy.

Outside one hospital, more than 100 people waited in the street for their turn to donate.

Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across a courtyard where the top part of the crane, which appeared to have bent or snapped, had crashed into the building which is several storeys high.

A video on YouTube showed people screaming and rushing around right after a massive crash was heard.


Moment a crane crashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque

Many faithful would have been gathered there ahead of evening maghrib prayers, which occurred about an hour after the tragedy.

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".

More rain and strong winds were forecast for Saturday, the agency said.

'High wind responsible for toppling of crane'

High winds were to blame for the toppling of a massive crane that smashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque and killed at least 107 people ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage, the head of Saudi Arabia's civil defense directorate said Saturday.

The director general of civil defense, Suleiman bin Abdullah al-Amro, told satellite broadcaster Al-Arabiya that the unusually powerful winds that toppled the crane also tore down trees and signs as a storm whipped through the area.

He denied reports that lightning brought down the red-and-white crane, which was being used for the mosque's expansion, or that some of those killed died in a stampede.

"The speed of the wind was not normal," he said. "There was no way for people to know that the crane was about to collapse for them to scramble," he added.

An amateur video circulating online, however, appeared to show a frantic scramble in the moments after the crane collapsed as scores of people pushed and jostled one another in a struggle to get out.

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