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Mecca crane collapse
Construction at the Masjid al-Haram.
|Date||11 September 2015 (2015-09-11)|
|Time||17:10 AST (UTC+03:00)|
|Location||Masjid al-Haram, Mecca, Saudi Arabia|
On 11 September 2015, a crawler crane toppled over onto the Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, killing 111 people and injuring 394. The city was preparing for the Hajj pilgrimage.
The victims were of twelve different nationalities, with the greatest contingents of fatalities being 25 Bangladeshis and 23 Egyptians. Of the injured, the most represented nationalities were 51 Pakistanis and 42 Indonesians. The accident has been cited as the deadliest crane collapse in modern history, with the previous most deadly incident being the collapse of a construction crane in New York City in 2008, killing seven people.
The Masjid al-Haram is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds Islam's holiest place, the Kaaba, in the city of Mecca. Muslims face in the direction of the Kaaba while performing prayers. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so, including circumambulation of the Kaaba.
There have been many major incidents during the Hajj over the years, causing the loss of thousands of lives. To prevent crushes and accommodate more pilgrims each year during the Hajj season, Saudi authorities undertook a major construction project to expand the mosque compound in recent years. At the time of the incident the Saudi authorities were preparing for the hundreds of thousands of people expected to arrive in the city for the Hajj due to begin on 22 September 2015. A Saudi official stated that Hajj would continue despite the collapse.
The Saudi Civil Defence authority confirmed that a crane collapsed through the ceiling of the mosque during strong winds created by a powerful storm. The collapse killed at least 111 people, injured 394, and trapped many pilgrims under the debris.
The incident reportedly occurred shortly before 5:20 p.m. on Friday, one of the busiest times of the week. The crane fell into the east side of the mosque, with its boom crashing through the roof. One witness reported that the crane fell on the third floor above Al-Safa and Al-Marwah at 5:45 p.m. local time.
There were strong sand storms in the region over the preceding week. The authority said an hour before the disaster that Mecca was experiencing medium to heavy rains. There were also reports of winds of more than 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph). However, the exact cause of the crane collapse was not confirmed.
Following the accident the governor of Mecca, Prince Khaled Al Faisal, ordered an investigation into the incident. Search and rescue teams and medical workers from the Saudi Red Crescent were sent to the site. After visiting the site on 13 September 2015, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud vowed that the accident will be investigated and the results will be made public. Pictures and video circulating on social media showed many dead and wounded amidst severe damage to the building.
After receiving the report on the investigation into the incident, King Salman ordered on 15 September, only four days after the incident, that top officials of the Saudi Binladin Group be banned from traveling outside the kingdom and that the group also be suspended from taking new projects. The report pinned the blame for the accident partially on the construction company. A royal court announcement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the king was reviewing the report of the Accident Investigation Committee, which suggested negligence on the part of the Saudi Binladin Group, but concluded that it found an "absence of criminal suspicion". The report said "the main reason for the accident is the strong winds while the crane was in a wrong position".
Bandar Al Hajjar, Saudi Hajj minister at the time,[note 2] stated that the Hajj that year would be the last to be affected by reductions in pilgrim quotas due to construction work, saying "Starting from next Hajj season, the number of pilgrims will increase to 5 million and then to 30 million in the coming five years".
The German-made Liebherr Group crawler crane LR 11350 involved in the incident is operated by the Saudi Binladin Group, who are heading the expansion of the Grand Mosque and also responsible for a large amount of major building contracts in Saudi Arabia. An engineer for the group said that the crane was erected in "an extremely professional way", and the accident was an "act of God". The Liebherr Group responded to the accident by sending local engineers and engineers from their crane manufacturing plant in Ehingen, Germany to help in the investigation of the accident and to assist on site. Liebherr Group experts who participated in the investigation of the collapse found no structural flaws in the crane. Their report stated that the crane's 190 meter long boom (620 ft) was not sufficiently secured by its operators so as to withstand the high winds present on the day of the collapse, and that use of that crane in those 80–105 kilometres per hour (50–65 mph) winds was well outside the manufacturer's recommended operating parameters. The Saudi Gazette reported that Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir (Governor) of Mecca, had ordered the Binladin Group to relocate the crane from pedestrian areas and to deploy safeguards to prevent pilgrims entering the construction zone, eleven days before the accident.
A source within the Mosque's engineering department stated that the crane was removed from the mosque and will not be reconstructed. The source said that, in coordination with the Civil Defense, all of the 100 cranes still present near the Haram were inspected and found to be safe.
Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, criticised the Saudi authorities, believing that their redevelopment of holy sites was not only damaging history, but putting many pilgrims' lives at risk.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called for immediate aid for Malaysian pilgrims who were injured in the incident. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered medical staff to assist with casualties. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman said that a Pakistani medical team engaged in providing medical treatment to the injured.
Other leaders around the world offered condolences. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi prayed for "Allah Almighty to grant the souls of the deceased rest in peace and forgiveness and to grant the injured a speedy recovery." Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson stated that he was "deeply saddened" and offered "condolences to the families and friends of the victims".
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his "thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in the crane crash in Mecca" and wished a "quick recovery" for the injured. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged "all Nigerians to pray for the continued safety of their compatriots who are currently in Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj". Singapore's President Tony Tan extended his "deepest and heartfelt condolences" to the King and people of Saudi Arabia, and stated that "our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families during this difficult time".
South African President Jacob Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin both offered their condolences. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow wrote that "it was with heartache that I heard the news that hundreds of people who were on a pilgrimage to Mecca were killed and injured". United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter that his "thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones at Mecca today". United States Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement that 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".
Compensation for victims
King Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered that a million Saudi riyal (US$266,000) be distributed as compensation to the families of those who died in the crane collapse, and that two relatives of each of the deceased are to be the King's guests for Hajj in 2016. The Saudi King has further ordered a million Riyals to be paid amongst the victims of the collapse with a permanent disability, and half a million riyal (US$133,000) to be paid to as compensation to collapse victims without lasting injuries. King Salman also decreed that these compensation payments will not prevent private legal claims by the injured and families of the deceased.
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