Mecca crane crash: Saudi King says findings will be made public
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said the results of an an investigation into a crane crash that killed 107 people Friday will be be made public.
“We will investigate all the reasons [of the collapse] and afterwards declare the results to the citizens,” the official Saudi news agency quoted him as saying.
King Salman, who is also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, visited the Grand Mosque Saturday and inspected the damage caused by the crane crash. He later visited the injured at Al-Noor Specialist Hospital.
Saudi Arabia Saturday blamed high winds for the deadly crane crash.
“Heavy rain and strong winds of unusually high speed led to the uprooting of trees, the fall of panels and the collapse of the crane,” General Suleiman al-Amr, director general of the Civil Defence Authority, told Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV.
Mecca’s governor, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident.
He has instructed the relevant authorities to complete repair work of the areas damaged by the crane fall by Monday the first day of the month of Dhul Hijjah and the last for reception of Hajis from outside the Kingdom whose number is expected to touch one million.
Assuring the Muslim world that the crane accident will not affect haj pilgrimage, he said those injured in the accident will be provided with well-equipped cars to visit the holy sites.
He said two committees have been set up to investigate the incident.
He conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif to the relatives of those who died in the accident.
The prince also visited the injured in Mecca hospitals and prayed for their speedy recovery.
Saudi Arabian authorities are examining safety standards of construction equipment at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, an official said.
“The contractor in charge has been asked to ensure safety standards in all cranes at the site under the supervision of a specialized team,” Hesham al-Faleh, the head of governmental agency for Mecca development, said.
Act of God, says engineer
Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, suggested that the authorities had been negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the mosque.
“They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety,” he said.
Alawi is an outspoken critic of redevelopment at the Muslim holy sites, which he says is wiping away tangible links to the Prophet Mohammed.
But an engineer for the Saudi Binladin Group, the developer, said the crane had been installed in “an extremely professional way” and that there had been no technical problem.
“It was an act of God”, he said.
11 Indians, 6 Pakistanis among the dead
Earlier, a statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba – the black-clad cube towards which the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray.
Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and debris from a part of the crane that appeared to have crashed through a ceiling.
Although nationalities of the dead are yet to be ascertained, six Pakistanis, 11 Indians and a Thai woman are reported to have been killed in the crash.
Among the injured were 45 Pakistanis, 25 Bangladeshis, 15 Indians, six Malaysians and two Thais.
Ninety-five of the injured have been discharged while 11 are still being treated in Mecca’s hospitals.
Recounting his incident, Indian Consul in Saudi Arabia General B.S. Mubarak, who has been camping in Makkah to look after Indian pilgrims for the past week, told Arab News that pilgrims inside the mosque were busy in prayers when the tragedy struck.
He said a crane came crashing down just before Maghreb prayer.
“Part of it fell into the mataf area,” he said. “When I went in, there were shards of glass and pieces of concrete in one particular area.”
‘We saw people dying before our eyes’
Abdel Aziz Naqoor, who said he works at the mosque, told AFP he saw the massive construction 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 holy Kaaba, which broke the crane’s fall.
Mohammed Wakeel, a pilgrim from Parbhan in India, said the weather was very bad before Maghreb.
“The winds were blowing at a ferocious speed and it felt like a cyclone was on the way. Minutes later, the clouds opened. There was heavy rain. It was frightening and then the streets of Makkah were filled with rainwater,” he said from Makkah.
“It all happened in a matter of minutes,” he said.
Sheikh Abdul Raheem, a pilgrim who was in Makkah at the time of the incident, said he and his colleagues had just finished their Asr prayers when the crash happened.
“There was a huge sandstorm followed by thunder, lightning and then heavy downpour. We went inside the new Haram, and suddenly lightning struck one of the cranes. It crashed with all the steel and hit one of the pillars of the new haram and fell into the mataf,” he said, recalling with horror how debris fell only a few meters from them.
“We saw people dying before our eyes in the mataf area,” he said.
Iqbal Hossain, who had gone to Makkah from Riyadh to see his parents who came from Dhaka, said: “I was outside the mosque … and I heard a loud sound.”
Then he heard the sirens of the ambulances and Civil Defense vehicles, he said, adding that rescue teams immediately arrived on the scene and rushed the injured to the nearest hospitals.
A video clip taken at the time of the tragedy showed pilgrims shouting “Allah-o-Akbar” (There is no God but Allah!)
The Civil Defense deployed more than 15 teams in addition to officials from the Saudi Red Crescent Authority and their vehicles.
Pakistan Ambassador Manzoor Ul Haq said that he was deeply saddened. “We pray for all those who died in the incident and wish those injured a speedy recovery,” the envoy said, adding that all affected were Muslims and everyone has to sympathize with them.
In view of the anticipated rains, citizens and visitors to Makkah were earlier advised to stay away from streams and pools of water.
Brig. Ahmed Duluubi, chief of Civil Defense in Makkah, said his agency had made all preparatory arrangements for any emergencies based on the weather reports issued by the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment.
The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment predicted Friday heavy rainfall, continuous thunderstorms accompanied by rising dust and dusty winds which were likely to limit visibility in areas such as Asir, Jazan, Al-Baha, Makkah and Madinah, while the sky was partly cloudy with a chance of rain in Hail, Qassim, Al-Jouf and Tabuk.
Last year, floods caused by torrential rain swept through parts of Makkah and Hail killing two people and injuring several others. The inclement weather also caused power cuts and damaged hundreds of cars across Makkah neighborhoods.