A construction crane crashed through the roof of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing 107 people and casting a grim shadow on a yearly pilgrimage that draws millions to Saudi Arabia.
At least 238 others suffered injuries when a powerful storm toppled the crane, according to the nation’s civil defense authorities.
The crane fell 10 days before the start of the Hajj, an annual pilgrimage expected to bring 2 million people to Mecca.
The mosque is the largest in the world and surrounds Islam’s holiest site known as the Kaaba.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visited the site of the crane collapse Saturday, according to the state-run Saudi Press agency.
The ruler gave his condolences to the victims’ families and vowed to investigate the cause of the accident. He also visited a hospital where he wished the wounded a speedy recovery.
Will the accident deter pilgrims? One American says it won’t stop her.
“My main concern is safety issues that arise with such a big crowd,” said Faten Abdelfattah, 32, of Texas, who was leaving Saturday. “It’s a reminder to put my trust in God and that I can’t stop death if it’s my time whether I’m there or sleeping safely in bed.”
She thinks the Saudi government will take extra precautions.
“I feel more comfortable after learning that they prevented pilgrims from entering the [site of the Kaaba] to check on construction equipment,” she told CNN. “I believe they have the pilgrims’ best interests in mind and after the incident they won’t leave anything to chance.”
Witnesses posted photos and video on social media showing the crane crashing through the mosque roof. Scores of bodies, blood and debris lay scattered across the courtyard.
“We just washed and were getting ready to head to the Masjid al-Haram for the Maghrib prayer (sunset prayer),” said Yahya Al Hashemi, 30, a CNN iReporter who shot iPhone video of the crane striking the roof of the mosque.
“It was a sandstorm which turned to rainstorm and lot of the construction covering boards were flying around, and lots of cracking noises which unfortunately ended with this tragedy. … Everybody was pushing trying to escape from inside towards the exits,” Al Hashemi said.
The crane collapsed after a strong thunderstorm hit Mecca, bringing gusty winds that shifted direction and caused the local temperatures to drop, CNN meteorologists reported.