‘It was an act of God’

James Dunn, Corey Charleston — Daily Mail Sept 13, 2015

Mecca thunderstorms: a picture captures the moment the fatal crane was toppled

Mecca thunderstorms: a picture captures the moment the fatal crane was toppled. Click to enlarge

An engineer for the developer responsible for the construction at Mecca – where a crane toppled killing more than 100 people – has claimed the incident was an ‘act of God’.

The unnamed engineer for the Saudi Binladin Group – which was founded by the father of the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden – has insisted there was no technical problem.

His reasoning for the accident comes as Saudi authorities have vowed to investigate why the crane fell on Friday, killing 107 and injured hundreds more at the Islam holy site.

Yesterday the engineer stated the crane had been installed in ‘an extremely professional way’ and that it was simply ‘an act of God’.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, former head of Mecca’s religious police, said the accident was a ‘test’ from God.

‘We need to accept what happened,’ he said, at the same time calling for a thorough investigation.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has now vowed to find out what caused the crane collapse at Mecca’s Grand Mosque ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage, although authorities have stated it was due to high winds during a thunderstorm.

The hajj, a pillar of the Muslim religion which last year drew about two million faithful, will take place despite the tragedy, Saudi authorities said as crowds returned to pray a day after the incident.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had already arrived in Mecca when the massive red and white crane toppled over during a Friday thunderstorm.

‘We will investigate all the reasons and afterwards declare the results to the citizens,’ Salman said after visiting the site.

But there was little mourning among pilgrims, who snapped pictures of the collapsed metal and continued with their prayers and rituals.

‘I wish I had died in the accident, as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place,’ Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Ibrahim said.

Om Salma, a Moroccan pilgrim, said ‘our phones have not stopped ringing since yesterday with relatives calling to check on us’.

Indonesians and Indians were among those killed when the crane collapsed, while the injured included Malaysians, Egyptians, Iranians, Turks, Afghans and Pakistanis.

Salman expressed his condolences to the families of the dead, and then visited a local hospital ‘to check on the health of the injured’, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

‘Suddenly, I heard thunder and then we heard a very loud noise. That was the sound of the crane falling,’ Mohammed, a Moroccan pilgrim, said.

Another visitor caught up in the tragedy, Ahmed from Egypt, said he and those around him were ‘very scared, hysterical even’.

An investigative committee has ‘immediately and urgently’ begun searching for the cause of the collapse, SPA reported.

The contractor, engaged in a major expansion of the mosque, has been directed to ensure the safety of all other cranes at the site, it added. The cranes soar skywards over the sprawling expansion taking place beneath the Mecca Royal Clock Tower, the world’s third tallest building.

For years, work has been under way on a 400,000-square-metre (4.3-million-square-feet) enlargement of the Grand Mosque to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.

An injured man sits on a stool waiting for medical assistance after the crane's collapse. Click to enlarge

An injured man sits on a stool waiting for medical assistance after the crane’s collapse. Click to enlarge

‘We saw people dying before our eyes’, the Arab News quoted Sheikh Abdul Raheem, a witness, as saying.

Pictures of the incident on Twitter showed bloodied bodies strewn across the courtyard, where part of the crane had landed atop an ornate, arched and colonnaded section of the complex.

But yesterday, people simply walked by the toppled crane as they gathered at the holy place, some taking pictures behind the barriers, some posing with the scene of the disaster in the background.

Later on, guards sat on chairs in the middle of a brilliant white floor, surrounded by visitors behind barriers, and just metres away from huge craters in the floor which was covered with victims of the disaster, which also injured around 238 people.

Some critics have claimed that the authorities were negligent in allowing a series of cranes to tower over the site, as hundreds of thousands of Muslims converge at the holy site for the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Images shared on social media showed a horrifying scene after the crane boom pierced through the roof of the mosque, bringing down slabs of reinforced concrete.

Yesterday, pictures showed the extent of the damage the crane did to the important site, ripping huge holes through massive concrete walls. The crane remained where it fell, a brutal reminder of the human cost of the disaster.

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