Updated at 7 p.m. ET
At least 107 were killed and more than 230 injured after a crane, apparently buffeted by strong winds, collapsed through the roof of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Saudi Arabia’s Civil Defence body said.
The accident comes as pilgrims are gathering in the city for the culmination later this month of the annual Hajj, which attracts millions of faithful each year. The Grand Mosque contains the Kaaba, a giant cube-like structure that serves as the focal point of Muslim prayers. The Kaaba also features prominently on the final day of the pilgrimage.
Kuwait News Agency Kuna reports that following the collapse, 39 ambulances were dispatched to the mosque to treat and transport the wounded. The Associated Press quotes civil defense officials as saying 184 people were hurt in the collapse.
The Grand Mosque is usually at its most crowded on Fridays, the Muslim weekly day of prayer, Gulf News reports.
The BBC says, “Reports suggested the crane fell during high winds. The Arabian peninsula has been hit by strong sand storms over the past week.”
According to Gulf News: “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.”
And the AP adds: “Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary. Steep hills and low-rise traditional buildings that once surrounded the mosque have in recent years given way to shopping malls and luxury hotels — among them the world’s third-tallest building.”