A huge construction crane buffeted by strong winds collapsed and crashed onto the Grand Mosquein Mecca Friday, killing as many as 65 worshippers only days before the start of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Saudi Arabia Civil Defense reports.
The Civil Defense said on Twitter that as many as 154 people had been injured.
Photos sent by Twitter from the scene show numerous blood-covered bodies strewn on a marble floor under the arm of a large crane.
Even before the crane accident, the Civil Defense was warning of thunderstorms, heavy rain and wind in the area.
The Saudi Civil Defense says search and rescue teams and medical workers from the Saudi Red Crescent have been sent to the scene.
65 dead in crane collapse at packed Mecca Grand Mosque ahead of pilgrimage
MORE than 60 people have been killed after a crane collapsed in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, just weeks before the annual Muslim pilgrimage.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia confirmed the accident on Twitter and said at least 65 people had died, with the death toll likely to rise.
As many as 30 people are also thought to be injured.
That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah 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 Makkah 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 (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.
Last year, the kingdom reduced the numbers permitted to perform haj for safety reasons because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque, Reuters reported.
The official SPA news agency said in a statement that by Friday, almost 800,000 pilgrims had arrived into the kingdom for hajj.