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Deathtoll in crane collapse rises

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The deathtoll in the Makkah construction crane collapse has risen to 107 and more than 200 people have been injured. The crane, being used for ongoing expansion work, fell while heavy storms were lashing the city, said eyewitnesses. Lightning struck the crane before it collapsed, one of the eyewitnesses said. Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal ordered an immediate inquiry into the disaster. He reached the accident site soon after the tragedy occurred.

He urged authorities to provide the best treatment to the injured. Accordingly, a committee has been set up to investigate the tragedy.
The nationalities of the dead are yet to be ascertained.

Pakistan has confirmed that 14 of its nationals were injured in the crane crash. Consul General Aftab Ahmed Khokher said: “We have confirmation of 14 injuries from among our nationals.”

He told Arab News that nine of the injured are being treated in one hospital and five in another.  He said his team is in Makkah and on the job. “They are visiting various hospitals to find out more details about Pakistani pilgrims,” he said.

The Bangladesh Consulate in Jeddah told Arab News that 25 Bangladeshis were injured. A senior diplomat from the mission said the consulate does not know whether the injured are pilgrims or workers. “Since it was a worksite, possibly the majority of them may have been construction workers.”

Mohammed Niyaz, an official from the Sri Lankan mission who deals with the island’s pilgrims, said no Sri Lankan pilgrim casualties were reported.
Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak confirmed that nine Indians were among the injured.

“We have no reports of any fatalities among Indians at the moment,” he told Arab News from Makkah.

He said the Saudi authorities quickly took control of the situation.

“They closed some entry points into the Grand Mosque, but many gates remained open,” he said. “I prayed Isha at the Grand Mosque and everything was normal.”
Mubarak, who has been camping in Makkah to look after Indian pilgrims for the past week, said pilgrims inside the mosque were busy in prayers. “There is no panic at all,” he said.

He said a crane came crashing down just before Maghreb. “Part of it fell into the mataf area,” he said. “When I went in there were shards of glass and pieces of concrete in one particular area.”

Mohammed Wakeel, a pilgrim from Parbhani, India, said the weather was very bad before Maghreb. “The winds were blowing at a ferocious speed and it felt like a cyclone was on the way. Minutes later, the clouds opened. There was heavy rain. It was frightening and then the streets of Makkah were filled with rainwater,” he told Arab News from Makkah. “It all happened in a matter of minutes.”

Malaysian media reported that six Malaysians were among the injured.

A Malaysian diplomat in Jeddah, however, told Arab News that there was no official confirmation about injured Malaysians. Sheikh Abdul Raheem, who was in Makkah at the time of the incident, said he and his colleagues had just finished their Asr prayers when the incident happened.

“There was a huge sandstorm followed by thunder, lightning and then heavy downpour.

“We went inside the new Haram, and suddenly lightning struck one of the cranes. It crashed with all the steel and hit one of the pillars of the new haram and fell into the mataf,” he said, recalling with horror how debris fell only a few meters from them. “We saw people dying before our eyes in the mataf area.”

Iqbal Hossain, who had gone to Makkah from Riyadh to see his parents who came from Dhaka, told Arab News: “I was outside the mosque … and I heard a loud sound.” Then he heard the sirens of the ambulances and Civil Defense vehicles, he said, adding that rescue teams immediately arrived on the scene and rushed the injured to the nearest hospitals. A video clip taken at the time of the tragedy showed pilgrims shouting Allah-o-Akbar (There is no God but Allah!)

The Civil Defense deployed more than 15 teams in addition to officials from the Saudi Red Crescent Authority and their vehicles.
Pakistan Ambassador Manzoor Ul Haq said that he was deeply saddened. “We pray for all those who died in the incident and wish those injured a speedy recovery,” the envoy said, adding that all affected were Muslims and everyone has to sympathize with them.

In view of the anticipated rains, citizens and visitors to Makkah were earlier advised to stay away from streams and pools of water.
Brig. Ahmed Duluubi, chief of Civil Defense in Makkah, said his agency had made all preparatory arrangements for any emergencies based on the weather reports issued by the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment.

The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment predicted on Friday heavy rainfall, continuous thunderstorms accompanied by rising dust and dusty winds which were likely to limit visibility in areas such as Asir, Jazan, Al-Baha, Makkah and Madinah, while the sky was partly cloudy with a chance of rain in Hail, Qassim, Al-Jouf and Tabuk.

Last year, floods caused by torrential rain swept through parts of Makkah and Hail killing two people and injuring several others. The inclement weather also caused power cuts and damaged hundreds of cars across Makkah neighborhoods. ARAB NEWS

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