A massive construction crane has crashed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque in stormy weather, killing at least 107 people and injuring 238, less than a fortnight before the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene.
That came about an hour after it tweeted that Mecca was “witnessing medium to heavy rains”, and pictures circulating on social media showed lightning. A spokesman for the two holy mosques
was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying part of a crane collapsed at 5:10pm (local time) “as a result of strong winds and heavy rains”.
Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, said 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 Kaaba and 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 plays a major role in the hajj.
Images 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 several-storey-high 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 gathered from all over the world for the annual hajj pilgrimage expected to begin on September 21.
The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer.
Many faithful would have been gathered there ahead of evening mahgrib prayers, which occurred about an hour after the tragedy.
Pleas to donate blood
The governor of Mecca region, prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident and was heading to the mosque, his official Twitter account said.
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.