107 killed after crane falls at the holiest place in Islam

14/09/2015 08:58
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, September 14, 2015, Asia-Plus – International media sources report that more than 100 people were killed when a crane toppled over at Mecca's Grand Mosque Friday, less than two weeks before Islam's annual hajj pilgrimage.

According to Reuters, General Suleiman al-Amr, director general of the Civil Defense Authority, told al-Ekhbariya television that 183 people were injured.

The Associated Press reported in an update that 107 people died and 238 were injured, according to the Civil Defense Authority.

Strong wind and rains had reportedly uprooted trees and affected cranes in the area, he said.

A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circumambulate the Kaaba and where pilgrims walk between Mounts Safa and Marwa.

 Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslims who converge upon Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Last year, they reduced the numbers permitted to perform the hajj on safety grounds because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque.

The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a crush in 2006.

Saudi authorities have since spent a lot of money to expand the main hajj sites and improve Mecca's transport 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 authorization.

Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure that can lead to stampedes, fires, and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.

Tajikistan’s commission for organization of the hajj pilgrimage says no Tajiks were injured in the Mecca Grand Mosque crane tragedy.  

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