At least 87 people died and 201 more were injured when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the Saudi Interior Ministry said on Friday.
The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Civil Defense blamed the accident on severe storms, according to its official Twitter.
The governor of the Makkah region, the capital of which is Mecca, Khalid al-Faisal has ordered the launch of an investigation into the causes of the accident.
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.
Photos taken from the scene and posted on social media show bodies lying in blood on the mosque’s floor surrounded by construction rubble and metal parts of the crane.
Over 68 emergency and rescue groups are active at the scene of the accident, the Saudi Red Crescent said on Facebook. Forty-nine of the injured have been transferred to hospitals, according to the head manager of the General Department for Hajj and Umrah Khaled al-Habashi. The rest only have minor injuries and are being treated on the scene.
جانب من عمليات الإنقاذ في الحرم المكي. pic.twitter.com/b5JWWfjxcS
— الدفاع المدني السعودي (@SaudiDCD) September 11, 2015
The project to expand the mosque was launched in 2011 by late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Earlier in 2015, King Salman bin Abdulaziz added five construction projects as part of the mosque’s expansion aiming to accommodate more than 1.6 million worshippers.
The projects cover 1.47 million square meters and include the construction of 78 new gates at ground level, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. The project and is being carried out by the Saudi Binladin Group at an estimated cost of US$26.6 billion, according to local press.
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.
Full report & videos at RT
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