Riyadh blamed for negligence in Mecca deadly incident
The co-founder of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, an institution critical of Riyadh’s construction projects at the holy sites, has blamed the Saudi regime for its negligence in a deadly crane incident in Mecca.
On Friday, Irfan al-Alawi compared the fatalities of the crane collapse in the Grand Mosque of Mecca to that of a bomb blast, criticizing Saudi officials for their disregard of safety measures in the ongoing construction projects around the city’s holy sites.
“They do not care about the heritage, and they do not care about health and safety,” said the executive director of the London-based institution, adding that the cranes overlooking the mosque pose a great threat to the security of the Hajj pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia has been under fire for the mass demolition of hundreds of historic Islamic sites and construction of towers overlooking the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba. The kingdom’s officials claim the destructions are part of a multi-billion-dollar project to expand the Grand Mosque, also called Masjid al-Haram, in an attempt to host more pilgrims.
Earlier in the day, at least 107 people, including an Iranian citizen, lost their lives as a crane fell on Hajj pilgrims in the Grand Mosque of Mecca. Reports added that the incident injured 238 people, including 25 Iranians.
“All those who were wounded and the dead have been taken to hospital. There are no casualties left at the location,” General Suleiman al-Amr, the director general of the Saudi Civil Defense Authority, stated.
According to Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Mansouri, the official spokesman of the Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mosque, the fatal incident took place “due to strong sandstorm, winds and torrential rains,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Reports also said that the Saudi Civil Defense body had predicted the storms, but it is not yet clear why the country’s officials did not observe the necessary safety precautions.
“Infrared satellite imagery showed an impressive conflagration of thunderstorms in the mountains around the Hollow of Mecca Friday evening,” weather.com meteorologist Jon Erdman said, adding, “These storms were certainly capable of producing strong outflow wind gusts, as is often the case in desert environments.”
The accident happened at a time when hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims are flocking to the holy city to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.