Crane Crashes Again in Mecca’s Grand Mosque
The Mecca region authority tweeted that the accident took place in a worksite in the mosque that is away from the routes of worshipers and visitors, injuring the driver of a heavy vehicle.
The accident is a reminder of the bitter memories of the death of at least 107 people when a crane collapsed onto the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 2015, 10 days before the Hajj ceremony. Over 230 people were also injured.
A week later, a fire incident at a Mecca hotel claimed the lives of several other pilgrims.
Saudis civil defense head said the collapse was caused by strong winds and heavy rains. Yet, the incident was just a prelude to a major catastrophe less than a month later when a stampede during one of the last rituals of the Hajj season on September 24, 2015, killed at least 7,477 people and left thousands wounded.
The stampede occurred during the ritual known as “stoning the devil” in the tent city of Mina, about two miles from Mecca.
At least 465 Iranians lost their lives in the incident, while hundreds of others were wounded.
Sources revealed at the time that the convoy of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud caused panic among millions of pilgrims and started the stampede.
“The large convoy of Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, the King’s son and deputy crown prince, that was escorted by over 350 security forces, including 200 army men and 150 policemen, sped up the road to go through the pilgrims that were moving towards the site of the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual, causing panic among millions of pilgrims who were on the move from the opposite direction and caused the stampede,” several Arab papers, including the Arabic language al-Dyar newspaper, disclosed the day Mina incident happened.
“That’s why the ruler of Mecca has distanced himself from the case, stressing that the issue should be studied and decided by the King,” it added.
Observers said the revelation explained why two of the roads to the ‘Stoning the Devil’ site had been closed.
Eye witnesses said earlier that the Saudi police and security forces had closed two of the few roads to the stone column that were to be used by millions of pilgrims to do the ‘Stoning the Devil’ ritual.
Saeed Ohadi, the head of Iran’s Hajj organization, accused Saudi Arabia of safety errors and mismanagement.
He said for “unknown reasons” the paths had been closed off near the scene of the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual where the accident later took place.
“This caused this tragic incident,” he told the Iranian state television.
Eyewitness accounts said that even after incident the Saudi security and military forces closed all paths leading to the scene and the bodies of pilgrims had piled up on each other.
Others blamed Riyadh for mismanagement of Hajj ceremony, adding that many of the wounded pilgrims were dying of the hot weather conditions, which reached 46 degrees centigrade on September 24, while police and the army had closed access roads to the site of the incident making the relief and rescue operations and trafficking of ambulances very difficult.
Pilgrims present on the scene were also complaining about insufficient number of medical teams and centers. Reports said hospitals were overwhelmed by the large number of the wounded.
Twelve hours after the incident, the dead body of hundreds of those killed in the stampede were still piled up out in the streets.
A Saudi analyst said on the condition of anonymity for the fear of his life at the time that the two stampede and crane crash incidents were the result of rivalries between a part of the Saudi police and security service and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to display that the Saudi king and crown prince are incompetent and unable to handle the Hajj ceremony.
Rivalries are tough and deep among different royal families who are all descendant of the Al-Saud and see themselves entitled to the thrown. The present king is the first from Sodayri family of Al-Saudi to have ascended to power.