At least 107 dead as crane crashes into Mecca’s Grand Mosque
Fatma Aksu - MECCA
AA photoAt least 107 people were killed and many were injured when a construction crane crashed into the Grand Mosque of Saudi Arabia’s holy Muslim city of Mecca on Sept. 11, authorities said.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, a Turkish Foreign Minister official said two Turks were among the dead. 19 Turkish citizens were injured in the incident, the official added.
Pictures circulating on social media showed bloodied bodies strewn across a courtyard where the top part of the crane, which appeared to have collapsed or snapped, had crashed into it, according to the Associated Press.
The civil defence authority, which gave the casualty figures, said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent 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."
The incident occurred as hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather from all over the world for the annual hajj pilgrimage set to begin later this month.
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.
A massive project is currently underway to increase the area of the mosque by 400,000 square metres, 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 Sept. 11, almost 800,000 pilgrims had arrived into the kingdom for hajj.
Iran's official IRNA news agency, quoting the head of the Hajj Organisation, said 15 Iranian pilgrims were among those injured.
Most of them were treated as outpatients, Saeid Ohadi said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country is home to tens of millions of Muslims, took to Twitter to express his sorrow over the incident.
"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" he said on his @narendramodi account.
Britain's David Cameron also used the micro-blogging site to say: "My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones at #mecca today."