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Cause Probed in Fatal Crane Collapse

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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The cause of a construction crane collapse that killed more than 100 people in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, remained under investigation Monday (Sept. 14).

A crane situated at Mecca’s Grand Mosque toppled over during a storm around 6:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 11), killing at least 107 and injuring 238, according to numerous reports.

Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Mansouri, spokesman for the Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mosque, said the incident was caused by a “strong sandstorm, winds and torrential rains,” according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Reports said the crane struck a circular area of the mosque and a nearby pedestrian bridge.

An engineer on the project told the Agence France-Presse that the crane had been installed in an “extremely professional way.”

“It was an act of God,” he said.

Gruesome Scene

Numerous photos and videos posted to social media sites Friday showed the apparent aftermath of the collapse—blood-covered worshipers on a marble floor and debris that had fallen through the ceiling.

At least one video circulating was said to have captured the red and white crane crashing down.

Additional photos show what appears to be lightning striking the crane.

Investigation Ongoing

King Salman, the country’s monarch, has vowed to find out what caused the construction crane to topple.

An official committee charged with examining the cause of the accident is expected to issue a final report by the end of the week, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Holy City Pilgrimage

The incident occurred less than two weeks ahead of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, hajj.

The holy city of Mecca plans to welcome more than 2 million people for the festival.

The Grand Mosque
Mardetanha via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Grand Mosque, or Masjid al-Haram, is the largest in the world, surrounding Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba.

The Grand Mosque, or Masjid al-Haram, is the largest in the world, surrounding Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba. (Muslims around the world face in the direction of the Kaaba during prayer.)

Saudi Arabian officials told members of the media that the hajj pilgrimage would go on despite the collapse. Repair work has begun at the site, reports noted.

Safety Concerns

The crane that collapsed was one of many being used on the expansion of the Grand Mosque, a project led by construction giant Saudi Binladin Group, reports said.

Construction crews have been working to enlarge the structure by 400,000 square meters (4.3 million square feet) in order to accommodate 2.2 million people at once, reports say. Reports have not indicated who owned the crane involved.

A co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation told the AFP that officials have been negligent by having the construction cranes so close to the mosque.

“They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety,” said Irfan al-Alai.

The construction work in the area was responsible for a reduction in the numbers permitted to make the hajj pilgrimage last year, Reuters reported.

Logistics have long been a challenge for the area, the Associated Press reported. In 2006, 360 were killed in a stampede during the pilgrimage at the desert plain of Mina, near Mecca, and in 1990, nearly 1,500 pilgrims died in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel in Mecca.



Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Cranes; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Middle East; Paint application equipment

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