A storm yesterday caused a crane to fall into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing 107 or more and wounding 238, according to Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defense Authority.
Civil Defense Authority director General Suleiman al-Amr, in remarks to al-Ikhbariya television, said “All those who were wounded and the dead have been taken to hospital. There are no casualties left at the location”.
The accident, which occurred yesterday afternoon, was caused by strong winds and heavy rain that led the crane to fall. Photos released of the scene showed numerous bloodied bodies and various scattered debris.
The accident occurred at a time when the mosque was relatively uncrowded. “Had it happened an hour later it would have been much worse,” Khaled Al-Maeena, editor at large at the Saudi Gazette, said. “Had it happened five hours earlier or four hours earlier, I think the death toll would have been more than a thousand.”
The crane accident comes just ten days before the beginning of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. As undergoing a pilgrimage to Mecca is a mandatory religious duty for all Muslims who physically and financially can, millions of pilgrims arrive in Mecca each year for the Hajj. Construction was underway at the mosque in order to enlarge the mosque and improve crowd control, which has been a recurring problem during Mecca’s pilgrimages.