2 Indians among 107 killed in Saudi crane crash
12 Sep 2015
Two Indians, including a hajj pilgrim from Kerala, were among the 107 people killed when a construction crane crashed onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, with scores more injured.
The crane, which was said to be several stories high, collapsed as a result of heavy rain and strong winds throughout the night.
The victim from Kerala was identified as Maimun, 33, wife of Ismail. The couple hailed from Kalmandapam in Palakkad district.
The ministry of external affairs in New Delhi confirmed that two Indians have been killed and 15 others injured in the tragedy.
The Saudi civil defence agency said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a "crane fell at the Grand Mosque," one of Islam's most revered sites. That came about an hour after it tweeted that Mecca was "witnessing medium to heavy rains," and pictures on social media showed lightning.
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 (local time) "as a result of strong winds and heavy rains."
Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP he saw the crane fall after being hit by the storm.
"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 and which has a major role in the hajj.
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.
A video on YouTube showed people screaming and rushing around right after a massive crash was heard and as fog engulfed the city. The incident occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims from all over the world gather for the annual hajj pilgrimage expected to begin on 21 September.
The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer. Many faithful would have gathered there ahead of evening maghrib prayers, which occurred about an hour after the tragedy.
The governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident and was heading to the mosque, the official @makkahregion account on Twitter said.
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 mosque. "They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety," he told AFP.