Over 60 dead after crane collapses at world’s holiest mosque in Mecca

Posted on September 11, 2015

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by Alex JS, editing by Adam MS

At least 65 people have died after a crane collapsed on the Grand Mosque of Mecca on Friday, Saudi authorities say. According to Saudi Interior Ministry, at least 154 more people were injured in the incident.

The tragedy comes ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which is due later this month. Millions of Muslims from around the world will converge on the holy city between September 21-26.

Al Arabiya television earlier said the crane had fallen because of strong storms – western Saudi Arabia has been hit by strong sand storms in the last few days. The governor of the Makkah region, the capital of which is Mecca, Prince Khalid al-Faisal has ordered the launch of an investigation into the causes of the accident.

The Grand Mosque, or Sacred Mosque, surrounds the Kaaba – the most sacred site in Islam. The cuboid structure made of granite located in the mosque’s center is often called the House of Allah.

The Kaaba is the place of the Hajj – the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the five Pillars of Islam. It is mandatory of all Muslims physically and financially capable to carry out the journey at least once in a lifetime. The period of Hajj in Mecca is considered to be one of the largest gatherings of people in the world.

The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rushed to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a stampede in 2006.

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 have since lavished vast sums to expand the main hajj sites and improve Mecca’s transportation system, in an effort to prevent more disasters.

Security services often ring Islam’s sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorization.

Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.

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Posted in: INTERNATIONAL, NEWS