Civil Defense personnel inspect the damage at the Grand Mosque
Civil Defense personnel inspect the damage at the Grand Mosque

RIYADH: At least 87 people were killed when a crane crashed in Holy Makkah’s Grand Mosque yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defense authority said, in an accident that came just weeks before annual Haj pilgrimage. The civil defense said on its Twitter account 184 people were also injured in the accident. Al- Arabiya television earlier said the crane had fallen because of strong storms – western Saudi Arabia has been hit by strong sandi storms in the last few days.

His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz after scores of people were killed and injured in the giant crane collapse in Makkah’s Holy Mosque yesterday. HH the Amir expressed deepest condolences over the death of the worshippers and wished speedy recovery for the injured.

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a message of condolences to King Salman over the casualties caused by the crane collapse. HH the Crown Prince wished speedy recovery for the injured. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim expressed sorrow at the high number of deaths caused by the crane collapse in the Holy Mosque. In a cable to speaker of the Saudi Shura Council Abdullah bin Mohammad Al-Sheikh, Al- Ghanim expressed heartfelt sorrow over the tragic accident. His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah also sent a similar message.

The governor of Makkah region, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal has ordered an investigation into the incident. A massive project is currently underway to increase the area of the mosque by 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once. The mosque is surrounded by a number of cranes. Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and masses of debris from a part of the crane that seemed to have crashed through a ceiling. Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of worshippers who converge on Makkah to perform the sacred pilgrimage.

Last year, it reduced the numbers permitted to perform Hajj for safety reasons because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque. The official SPA news agency said in a statement that by yesterday, almost 800,000 pilgrims had arrived into the kingdom for Hajj. Currently, there are 15 civil defense teams side-by-side with the Saudi search and rescue team, Red Crescent, and health affairs rescuing and providing first aid within the Holy Mosque’s vicinity, the civil defense added in the statement.

Meanwhile, Saudi health sectors announced maximum alert in all of the Kingdom’s hospitals to receive the injured. Saudi authorities have spent vast sums to expand the main Hajj sites and improve Makkah’s transportation system in an effort to prevent disasters. Security services often ring Islam’s sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorization. — Agencies