By: Regina Wright ~Staff Writer~
After a powerful sandstorm turned into a thunderstorm in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on the afternoon of Sept. 11, a large construction crane crashed into the roof of Al-Masjid al-Haram.
Al-Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Grand Mosque, is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, a cuboid-shaped building that worshippers circle and pray towards. The crane was toppled by strong gusts of wind that caused it to crash into the roof, killing 107 people and injuring 238 others.
At 4 p.m. the thunderstorm formed over Mecca. Strong winds decreased the local temperature by more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, from 108 degrees to 77 degrees. Al-Masjid al-Haram has had previous tragedies. Many people were killed during stampedes in 1998, 2004 and 2006. Had the crane fallen four to five hours earlier, the death toll may have been higher.
Since it fell in between prayer times, the mosque was not as crowded. The crane crashed 10 days before the Hajj starts, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam requires that every Muslim who is physically and financially able to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca must travel there at least once in his or her life.
The Hajj starts two months and 10 days after Ramadan ends, and is expected to bring two million pilgrims to Mecca. According to the Egyptian health ministry, at least 12 Egyptians were injured. India’s ministry reported that nine of its pilgrims were injured.