A massive crane, one of those used in the ongoing construction projects around the Grand Mosque, collapsed on Friday in stormy weather killing 107 people and injuring 238 others. Nine Indians are among those injured.
The accident comes days before the start of the annual haj pilgrimage.
Saudi authorities have launched a probe into the case, while 15 civil defence and rescue and medical panels have been deployed at the site.
Ahmed bin Mohammad al-Mansoori, spokesperson for the two holy mosques, was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying part of a crane collapsed at 5:10pm (1410 GMT) “as a result of strong winds and heavy rains.” AFP quotes Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, that if “it weren’t for Al-Tawaf bridge the injuries and deaths would have been worse”. The bridge is a covered walkway that surrounds the holy Kaaba and broke the crane’s fall. The holy Kaaba is at the centre of the Grand Mosque.
Bloodied bodies were seen strewn across the courtyard where the top part of the crane struck. The impact was so massive that the part either bent or snapped completely.
Death toll would have been much higher if the tragedy had happened an hour later at the time of the evening maghrib prayers, when the numbers of faithful increases. This incident has brought back into the fore the infrastructural plans of the Saudi Government, which many say is wiping out the traditional history of the region.
The co-founder of Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, Irfan al-Alawi, said that the authorities were negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the mosque.
“They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety.”
Alawi alleges that the redevelopment of the sites is wiping away tangible links to the Prophet Mohammed.
A massive project is underway to expand 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. After the conclusion of the current and final expansion, the mosque could accommodate more than three million worshipers in one hour. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted their condolences.
Heartfelt condolences to families of deceased due to crane crash in Mecca, prayers for speedy recovery of the injured #PresidentMukherjee