More than 100 people were killed and scores left wounded when a massive construction crane overlooking the holy Grand Mosque in Saudi pilgrim city of Mecca toppled and collapsed Friday evening. As per the latest reports, at least 107 people have been confirmed dead. The dead also include two Indian nationals, reported to be the residents of Kerala. The freak accident, triggered by rough weather, took place just days before the beginning of annual Haj pilgrimage.
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.”
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 maghrib prayers, which occurred about an hour after the tragedy.
Confirming the incident, the Saudi Arab’s state civil defence agency informed on the micro-blogging site Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a “crane fell at the Grand Mosque,” one of Islam’s most revered sites.
According to the eyewitnesses, hundreds of victims could be seen strewn across the courtyard where the top part of the crane had crashed. Such was an impact of the crash that a massive fog could be seen engulfing the city. The incident occurred just weeks before hundreds of thousands pilgrims from all over the world would begin gathering for the annual Haj pilgrimage expected to begin on September 21.
An investigation has now been ordered by the governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal.
The victims also include Indian nationals. As per the latest reports, two Indians have been killed and 15 others were left injured. Briefing the press in New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the officials from the Indian Consulate in Jeddah have been sent to the ground and have set up a 24×7 helpline to provide information and assistance.
“Regrettably we have been informed that 2 Indians have been killed in the unfortunate accident… We have received reports that 15 Indians have been injured and are being assisted in various hospitals. These include 11 from the Haj Committee of India and 4 from Private Tour Operators,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the press.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Md. Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi too condoled the loss of lives in the incident.
“Heartfelt condolences to families of deceased due to crane crash in Mecca, prayers for speedy recovery of the injured,” President Mukherjee’s office wrote on the Twitter.
Expressing deep sadness over the accident at the Grand Mosque, the office of Vice President Hamid Ansari issued a statement, calling for every effort to render all possible aid to the injured and the bereaved families.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed grief over the incident.
“My thoughts & prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the crane crash in Mecca. I wish the injured a quick recovery,” Prime Minister Modi wrote on the Twitter.
(With inputs from the PTI)