Saturday 3 December 2016

107 killed, 238 injured as crane crashes into Mecca's Grand Mosque

Barney Henderson

Published 12/09/2015 | 10:57

A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month.(AP Photo)
A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month.(AP Photo)

At least 107 pilgrims were killed on Friday night and 238 injured when a construction crane crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca.

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The crane appeared to have snapped and smashed through the ceiling on the eastern side of the largest mosque in the world following high winds and heavy rain.

The Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, was particularly busy at the time, as Muslims from around the world converge on the site ahead of the Hajj pilgrimage at the end of the month.

Pictures and videos posted on social media showed scores of dead bodies on the mosque's marble floor and courtyard, with dazed and bloodied pilgrims being treated among the rubble.

Unverifiable mobile phone footage appeared to show the moment the crane fell, with a loud crash followed by panic and shouting.

Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, said he saw the crane fall after being hit by the storm.

Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer

"If it wasn't for the Al-Tawaf bridge the injuries and deaths would have been worse," he said, referring to a covered walkway that surrounds the holy Kaaba and broke the crane's fall.

The Prime Minister has offered his "thoughts and prayers" to the families of those killed when a giant construction crane collapsed and killed more than 100 people at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Read more: At least 65 people dead and 154 people injured in Grand Mosque in Mecca from falling crane

The Foreign Office said it was working with the nation's authorities as they attempt to identify the victims, whose nationalities remain unknown.

In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, an area is cordoned off at the Grand Mosque in Mecca after a crane collapsed killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, an area is cordoned off at the Grand Mosque in Mecca after a crane collapsed killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 file photo, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers with the four-faced clocks stands over the holy Kabaa, as Muslims encircle it inside the Grand Mosque during the annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's civil defense authority says dozens of people have been killed after a crane collapsed on the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
An aerial view shows Muslim worshippers praying at the Grand mosque surrounded by construction cranes, in the holy city of Mecca in this July 14, 2015 file photo. At least 65 people were killed when a crane crashed in Mecca's Grand Mosque on September 11, 2015, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, in an accident that came just weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Ali Al Qarni/Files
Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 6, 2013 file photo as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray during Umrah. At least 65 people were killed when a crane crashed in Mecca's Grand Mosque on September 11, 2015, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, in an accident that came just weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014 file photo, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers with the four-faced clocks stands over the holy Kabaa, as Muslims encircle it inside the Grand Mosque during the annual pilgrimage, known as the hajj, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia's civil defense authority says dozens of people have been killed after a crane collapsed on the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, emergency service vehicles are seen near the Grand Mosque in Mecca, after a crane collapsed killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. The civil defense authority announced the collapse and a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
This still image taken from video, shows the moment a crane collapses over the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo/Mohamed Ahmed Al-Askar)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 file photo, cranes rise at the site of an expansion to the Grand Mosque as Muslim pilgrims circle counterclockwise around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. A towering construction crane toppled over on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015 during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam?s holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing dozens of people ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)
Members of an emergency crew stand near damage caused by a collapsed crane at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer
Pilgrims and first responders gather at the site of a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
Saudi officials stand near damage caused by a collapsed crane at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer
Members of a Saudi emergency crew stand near damage caused by a collapsed crane at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer
A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Stringer
Muslim pilgrims leave the Grand Mosque, as a towering construction crane, top, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month.(AP Photo)
Civil Defense personnel inspect the damage at the Grand Mosque after a crane collapsed, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Saudi News Agency/Handout via Reuters
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in this handout picture published on Twitter account of the Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense/Handout via Reuters
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Saudi News Agency/Handout via Reuters
Members of a Saudi emergency crew and people gather after a crane collapsed in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in this handout picture published on Twitter account of the Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense/Handout via Reuters
Members of a Saudi emergency crew stand near damage caused by a collapsed crane in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in this handout picture published on Twitter account of the Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Directorate of the Saudi Civil Defense/Handout via Reuters
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Saudi News Agency/Handout via Reuters
A construction crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing over a hundred people, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
A construction crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing over a hundred people, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
Part of a construction crane is seen coming through the ceiling of the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing over a hundred people, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
A towering construction crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015. The towering construction crane toppled over on Friday during a violent rainstorm in the Saudi city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, crashing into the Grand Mosque and killing over a hundred people, ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month. (AP Photo)
In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, a collapsed crane and emergency services vehicles are seen near the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month, killing dozens. The civil defense authority announced the collapse and a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. It said 154 people were wounded in the accident. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
In this still image taken from video released by Saudi TV, a crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi TV via AP)
Construction cranes surround the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca in this January 5, 2013 file photo. At least 65 people were killed when a crane crashed in Mecca's Grand Mosque on September 11, 2015, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, in an accident that came just weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Files
In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, Civil Defense officials inspect the damage at the Grand Mosque in Mecca after a crane collapsed killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)
In this still image taken from video released by Saudi TV, a crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi TV via AP)
Pilgrims and first responders gather at the site of a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
Pilgrims and first responders gather at the site of a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
Pilgrims and first responders gather at the site of a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
Pilgrims and first responders gather at the site of a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
Wounded pilgrims sit on the floor after a crane collapse that killed dozens inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (AP Photo)
In this image released by the Saudi Interior Ministrys General Directorate of Civil Defense, a collapsed crane is seen over the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month, killing dozens. The civil defense authority announced the collapse and a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. (Saudi Interior Ministry General Directorate of Civil Defense via AP)

David Cameron tweeted from his Number 10 office account: "My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones at Mecca today."

And Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I'm shocked and saddened to hear of the accident in Mecca involving a large number of fatalities amongst those attending the Hajj. My thoughts are with the families of those affected."

A Foreign office spokeswoman added: "We are liaising closely with the Saudi authorities following the crane collapse at the Grand Mosque in Mecca and stand ready to provide support to anyone affected."

Online activists created a hashtag on Twitter urging Mecca residents to donate blood at hospitals in the area.

No details were immediately available on the nationalities of the victims. Iran's official IRNA news agency, quoting the head of the Hajj Organisation, said that 15 Iranian pilgrims were among those injured.

The cause of the crane collapse was not confirmed, and official information was not forthcoming from the secretive kingdom.

Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Saudi News Agency/Handout via ReutersATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES.
Damage caused by a collapsed crane is seen in the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 11, 2015. At least 107 people were killed when the crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque on Friday, Saudi Arabia's Civil Defence authority said, less than two weeks before Islam's annual haj pilgrimage. REUTERS/Saudi News Agency/Handout via ReutersATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES.

The Saudi civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a "crane fell at the Grand Mosque."

Read more: At least 87 killed by falling crane at Grand Mosque in Mecca

The authority said an hour before the disaster that Mecca was "witnessing medium to heavy rains".

There were also reports of winds of more than 25mph that were blamed for toppling the crane. There have been strong sand storms in the region over the past week.

The governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has now ordered an investigation into the incident.

A photograph circulated on social media showed a crane next to the mosque being struck by lightening, but it was again not possible to confirm whether the image was genuine.

The mosque expansion was being carried out by the Saudi Binladin Group, the massive industrial conglomerate which was founded by the father of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed.

With close links to the Saudi royal family, the group wields considerable influence in Saudi Arabia and the £14 billion mosque scheme was one of a number of prestige projects in which it was involved.

Osama bin Laden was estranged from the family. Only last month the sister and stepmother of Osama bin Laden were among those killed when an Embraer Phenom 300, owned by the group’s aviation arm, crashed at Blackbushe airfield in Hampshire as it tried to land following a flight from Milan-Malpensa airport.

There are several other construction projects under way close to the Grand Mosque, which is spread across an 88 acre site. The crane was one of a number dotted around the site.

A major expansion of the Grand Mosque began last year in a bid to handle the huge numbers of visitors.

Last year more than two million people performed Hajj, while in 2012 the figure was more than three million.

A huge hotel complex is being built around a mile south of the Grand Mosque. The hotel, with 45 storeys and 10,000 bedrooms – including five floors for the sole use of the Saudi royal family – will be the largest in the world when it opens next year.

The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, this year takes place between September 21-26.

The official Saudi SPA news agency said in a statement that by yesterday, almost 800,000 pilgrims had arrived in the kingdom for Hajj.

The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer.

The pilgrimage has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rushed to complete rituals and return home.

Up to 300 pilgrims died in such a stampede in 2006 and in 2004 a stampede killed more than 200. The worst stampede, in 1990, left 1,400 people dead.

In 2006, a concrete multi-story hotel collapsed, killing 76 people.

Saudi authorities have since gone to great lengths – and spent billions of pounds – to expand the main Hajj sites and improve Mecca's transportation system.

The mosque is Islam's most sacred site. At the heart of the mosque, the oldest parts of which date to the 16th century, is the Kaaba – a black cube-shaped building – which Muslims all over the world face when they pray. Hajj pilgrims perform a series of rituals, including walking anticlockwise seven times around the Kaaba

Telegraph.co.uk

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