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Rediff.com  » News » 2 Indians among 107 killed in Mecca as crane crashes into Grand Mosque

2 Indians among 107 killed in Mecca as crane crashes into Grand Mosque

Last updated on: September 12, 2015 11:51 IST

Strong winds and heavy rains caused the crane to fall

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims gathered from all over the world for the annual Hajj pilgrimage expected to begin on September 21. Photograph: Twitter

Saudi Arabia began an investigation on Saturday after a massive crane collapsed into the Grand Mosque of Mecca leaving 107 people dead and more than 200 injured. Two Indians were among those killed and 15 others were injured in the mishap, the external affairs ministry said.

Strong winds and heavy rains caused the crane to fall, said the head ead of Saudi Arabia's civil defence agency, Lt Sulayman Bin-Abdullah al-Amr.

The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were rushed to the scene after a "crane fell at the Grand Mosque." That came about an hour after it tweeted that Mecca was "witnessing medium to heavy rains," with pictures circulating on social media showing lightning.

Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across a courtyard where the top part of the crane, which appeared to have bent or snapped, had crashed into the several storey-high building. A video on YouTube showed people screaming and scurrying around right after a massive crash was heard and as fog engulfed the city.

The incident occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims gathered from all over the world for the annual Hajj pilgrimage expected to begin on September 21.

It houses the Kaaba -- the massive cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray.

Bad weather is thought to be behind the crane collapse. Photograph: Reuters

The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer.  It houses the Kaaba -- the massive cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray.

The governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has ordered an investigation into the incident and was heading to the mosque, the official @makkahregion page on Twitter said. Meanwhile, online activists created a hashtag on Twitter urging Mecca residents to donate blood at hospitals in the area.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Indian officials from the Indian Consulate in Jeddah have been on the ground and have set up a 24X7 helpline to provide information and assistance. They have been monitoring the situation through the night, Swarup said.

"Regrettably we have been informed that 2 Indians have been killed in the unfortunate accident," he said. "We have received reports that 15 Indians have been injured and are being assisted in various hospitals. These include 11 from the Haj Committee of India and 4 from Private Tour Operators," he added.

A picture captures the moment the fatal crane was struck by lightning prior to collapsing into the mosque. Photograph: Twitter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari condoled the loss of lives.

Modi, in a tweet, said, "My thoughts & prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the crane crash in Mecca. I wish the injured a quick recovery."

"Heartfelt condolences to families of deceased due to crane crash in Mecca, prayers for speedy recovery of the injured," President Mukherjee tweeted.

The vice president expressed deep sadness over the accident at the Grand Mosque in Mecca that has resulted in casualties, a statement issued by his office said. He called for every effort to render all possible aid to the injured and the bereaved families. Ansari conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased and wishes speedy recovery to the injured persons.

A massive project is currently underway to expand the area of the mosque by 4 lakh square metres (4.3 million square feet), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once. The mosque is surrounded by a number of cranes.

The hajj has largely been incident-free during the past few years, with Saudi Arabia investing billions of dollars in transport and other infrastructure to facilitate the movement of the huge numbers of people who take part.

The official SPA news agency said in a statement that by Friday, almost 8 lakh pilgrims had arrived into the kingdom for Hajj.

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