Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Pilgrims traumatized, asking how Mecca crane could collapse

Published:Tuesday | September 15, 2015 | 9:00 AM
A worker sits in a construction crane used in the ongoing expansion of the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, a few days after a crane smashed into the mosque and killed over 100 people recently.

MECCA (AP):

Jumaa Ibrahim and his wife, Hasnaa Karam, a Syrian couple in their early 60s, arrived in Mecca on Friday and headed straight to Islam's holiest site, the cube-shaped Kaaba.

It had begun to rain in the ancient desert city. Karam, who had waited a lifetime to make the pilgrimage to stand before the Kaaba, stood with her palms facing the sky in prayer. Ibrahim stood a few feet to her side, quietly reading verses from the Quran.

Suddenly, a loud boom echoed. Karam found herself surrounded by carnage - body parts were scattered everywhere amid pools of blood on the white marble floor of the mosque.

The kingdom's Civil Defence said unusually strong winds tipped over one of the massive cranes around the Grand Mosque that houses the Kaaba. The crane crashed through part of the mosque's roof and upper floors, sending concrete slabs crashing down.

"I saw a head, legs, blood, dead people," Karam said during an interviewed at her husband's bedside in Mecca's Al-Noor Specialist Hospital. "We started saying 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar' as the rain poured down."

She escaped injury, but her husband was among the hundreds injured, his leg broken in two parts. The death toll reached 111 on Sunday as more of the injured died. The health ministry on Sunday said 394 people were treated at medical facilities after the crane collapse, and 158 of the injured remained hospitalised.