Saudi Arabia vows to ensure safety in Makkah


Saudi king pledges to share results of probe of Friday’s deadly crane collapse with public

Saudi Arabia pledged Sunday to ensure the safety of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arriving at Makkah, following the collapse of a crane that left scores dead and injured in the holy city.

“We will continue to do everything we can to serve the guests of the holy mosques,” King Salman said early Sunday morning on his official Twitter account, “and we will not hesitate to hold any delinquent accountable.”

Saudi Arabian officials have blamed stormy winds for the crane crash Friday that caved in part of the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The collapse killed at least 107 people and injured more than 230 from several nationalities, including Iranian, Turkish, Afghan, Egyptian and Pakistani.

It was one of the religious gathering’s worst accidents in recent years and highlighted the hazards of the huge crowds packing Islam’s most sacred site.

More than 900,000 pilgrims have already arrived in the kingdom in preparation for the Hajj, with more than two million people expected to perform the pilgrimage this year.

The fact that the accident occurred on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, fuelled conspiracy theories online about a possible link to the Bin Laden family who owns the company leading the expansion project at the Grand Mosque. The company couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

The monarch, who visited the site on Saturday night, pledged to share the results of the government investigation with the public. He later visited Al-NourHospital in Makkah where many of the injured are receiving treatment.

Saudi officials said high winds and heavy rain were behind the crane crash. “The state of weather that engulfed Makkah was not normal,” a civil defense official said following the accident. Weather observations at the closest airport near Makkah showed wind speeds as high as 25 mph.

A committee investigating the crane crash has delivered its report to the governor of Makkah, who will take it to the crown prince and the king, local media reported Sunday.

Saudi Arabia has faced criticism in the past for not doing enough to prevent such incidents, the last of which occurred in 2006 when 346 were killed in a stampede on Makkah bridge. The expansion of the mosque and the facilities around it in recent years was supposed to alleviate some of these concerns.

Saudi Arabia sees the Hajj, a mass ceremony that draws millions of Muslims from around the globe, as a chance to highlight its role as a leader of the Islamic world, with the government sparing no expenses in improving infrastructure and services in the holy sites to accommodate more pilgrims.

But critics say the rapid development has contributed to the commercialization of Makkah at the expense of its spiritual value.


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