MAKKAH:(APS) At least 87 people were killed and more than 180 injured when a crane crashed through the Masjid-i-Haram of Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Makkah on Friday, the country’s civil defence said on Twitter.
Few details were immediately available but pictures circulating on social media showed bloodied bodies strewn across part of the mosque where the crane was seen having crashed into the ceiling.
The incident occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather from all over the world for the annual Haj pilgrimage set to begin later this month.
The civil defense authority announced the collapse and a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. It said 184 people were wounded in the accident.
The accident was reportedly a result of heavy rainfall in the city. The nationalities of those killed have not been ascertained as of now.
Videos and photos posted by social media users showed a grisly scene, with police and onlookers attending to multiple bloodied bodies on the polished mosque floors.
Pan-satellite Al-Jazeera Television broadcast footage from inside the mosque compound said to be from the aftermath of the accident, showing the floor strewn with rubble and what appear to be pools of blood.
Another video, on a Twitter posting, captured the apparent moment of the crane’s collapse during a heavy rainstorm, with a loud boom, screams and confusion.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed deep condolences on the sad demise of pilgrims due to the incident. He prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls and commiserated with the bereaved families and the government of Saudia Arabia.
Nawaz Sharif has directed Pakistan’s ambassador in Saudia Arabia to provide every possible help to the injured and to personally visit patients in hospitals on behalf of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rushed to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a stampede in 2006.
Saudi authorities have since lavished vast sums to expand the main Haj sites and improve Makkah’s transportation system, in an effort to prevent more disasters.
Security services often ring Islam’s sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorisation.
Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.