At least 107 people were killed and 238 injured when a crane toppled over in high winds onto the Masjid al-Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca, in the late afternoon on Friday, September 11. The Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest place, the Kaaba.
Saudi Binladin Group is leading the expansion work, though it is not yet known if they own the crane involved in the tragic accident. The Binladin Group is owned by the Bin Laden family who disowned their relative, Osama Bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader credited with being the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks.
The city in Saudi Arabia was preparing for the Hajj, a time of pilgrimage which is one of the Five Pillars of Faith in Islam incumbent upon every Muslim man, which begins next week, and almost one million pilgrims have already arrived.
The mobile crawler crane, one of several at the site, toppled in strong storm winds and heavy rain while it was working on a construction project to enlarge the facilities in preparation for the two million pilgrims.
The victims were from all over the world, including Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan. Saudi authorities are investigating the accident but have pledged that the annual Hajj pilgrimage will go ahead as planned.
The site has seen tragedy before, including fires, epidemics, and building collapse, but the most common are stampedes. In at least four separate incidents, hundreds of pilgrims were trampled to death.
During the 1990 Hajj, almost 1,500 people were trampled during a stampede in a pedestrian tunnel. Saudi officials place guards at the entrance to the city to restrict access to those who have received authorization to enter.