Saudi king vows to find cause of pre-hajj crane tragedy

Mecca, Sept 13: Saudi Arabia's King Salman vowed to find out what caused a crane collapse that killed 107 people, including two Indian women, at Mecca's Grand Mosque ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The hajj, a pillar of the Muslim religion which last year drew about two million faithful, will take place despite Friday's tragedy, Saudi authorities said as crowds returned to pray a day after the incident.


Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already arrived in Mecca when the massive red and white crane toppled over during a Friday thunderstorm.

"We will investigate all the reasons and afterwards declare the results to the citizens," Salman said after visiting the site, one of Islam's holiest, yesterday.

Parts of the Grand Mosque remained sealed off yesterday around the wreckage of the crane, which also injured around 200 people when it crashed into a courtyard.

But there was little mourning among pilgrims, who snapped pictures of the collapsed metal and continued with their prayers and rituals. "I wish I had died in the accident, as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place," Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Ibrahim told AFP.

Om Salma, a Moroccan pilgrim, said "our phones have not stopped ringing since yesterday with relatives calling to check on us".

Indonesians and Indians were among those killed when the crane collapsed, while the injured included Malaysians, Egyptians, Iranians, Turks, Afghans and Pakistanis.

Salman expressed his condolences to the families of the dead, and then visited a local hospital "to check on the health of the injured", the official said.

A Saudi official said the hajj, expected to start on September 21, would go ahead despite the tragedy. "It definitely will not affect the hajj this season, and the affected part will probably be fixed in a few days," said the official, who declined to be named.

The pilgrimage is a must for all able-bodied Muslims who can afford it. An investigative committee has "immediately and urgently" begun searching for the cause of the collapse.

The contractor, engaged in a major expansion of the mosque, has been directed to ensure the safety of all other cranes at the site, it added.

The cranes soar skywards over the sprawling expansion taking place beneath the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, the world's third tallest building.

For years, work has been under way on a 400,000- square-metre enlargement of the Grand Mosque to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once. 


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