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Hajj Pilgrimage to Proceed After Tragedy at Grand Mosque

  • VOA News

A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015.

A towering construction crane, center, is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015.

Saudi officials have pledged this year’s Hajj pilgrimage will go ahead despite a crane collapse that killed 107 people and injured more than 230 at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

The huge crane crashed through a ceiling of the mosque as worshipers gathered for Friday prayers, just days ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage at one of Islam's holiest sites.

The head of Saudi’s civil defense authority, Suleiman al-Amr, said high winds during a storm caused the disaster.

Prince Khaled al-Faisal, governor of the Mecca region, has ordered an investigation into the incident and was heading to the mosque Saturday.

Muslim pilgrims walk around around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015.

Muslim pilgrims walk around around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Saturday morning, Sept. 12, 2015.

Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and masses of debris from a part of the crane that crashed. Work has been underway to expand the mosque compound.

A sound technician at the mosque, Mohammed Tahir, told VOA's Urdu service that weather was a factor in the collapse.

“It was raining heavily with strong gusty winds when a master crane became unbalanced due to the strong winds," he said. "The crane ... fell inside the mataf [the inner area of the grand mosque].”

An engineer for Saudi Binladin Group, which is carrying out the mosque expansion, told the French news agency AFP on Saturday that the accident was "an act of God" and not the result of a technical fault. He said the crane, like many others on the project, had been there for three or four years without any problem.

Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Grand Mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

US condolences

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his condolences and said the United States stood with Saudi Arabia and "all Muslims around the world in the aftermath of this dreadful incident at one of Islam's holiest sites."

Several other world leaders have also offered condolences to Saudi officials.

The incident occurred as Muslims gather from all over the world for the annual Hajj pilgrimage set to begin later this month in Mecca.

The Grand Mosque is one of the sites that sees the largest gathering of pilgrims during Hajj.

The mosque is among the largest in the world and is visited by millions of pilgrims and worshipers each year.

Last year, the Saudi kingdom reduced the numbers of people permitted to perform Hajj for safety.

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