At least 87 people were killed and as many as 184 more were injured when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, the Saudi Arabian government has said. Pictures across the social media showed what appeared to be numerous bodies on the ground – as well as bloodied, injured people being helped the scene. They showed a large group of people lying on marble-like flooring, most of them near to a wall and surrounded by rubble and other debris. One man appears to be being wheeled out of the building on a wheelchair.
The Grand Mosque, which houses the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray, has been surrounded by a number of cranes. Reconstruction work has been going on to enlarge the mosque by 400,000 sq m (4.3 m sq ft), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people The work has continued for the past two years and was expected to be largely completed before this year’s pilgrimage, which begins on 22 September. The construction at the mosque, set to finish next year, was slated to bring the mosque’s capacity to 2.3 million worshipers.
The last deadly incident occurred in 2006, when 346 were killed in a stampede on Mecca bridge. In 1990, a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel in the city killed 1,426 pilgrims, the deadliest Hajj incident in recent history. In addition to concerns over crowd control, Saudi authorities also are attempting to manage concerns about the spread of the lethal Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. The country reported 34 new cases of the disease last week.