A crane that collapsed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has left at least 87 dead, with more than 200 people being left injured.
The massive red crane crashed into a section of the Grand Mosque (largest in the world) that, at the time, was full of worshippers.
Saudi Arabia’s head of civil defence said that the collapse was caused by strong winds and heavy rain.
Mecca is currently preparing for the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage. Hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world are expected to arrive in the Saudi city later this month – approximately 10 days time. Muslims – who are capable of doing so – are required by Islam to perform a pilgrimage to the site at least once in their lifetime.
Director-General of the Saudi Civil Defence Authority, Lt Sulayman Bin-Abdullah al-Amr, said that the collapse happened at 17.23 local time [14.23 GMT] (September 11).
At the time of the collapse many worshippers were present and participating in Friday prayers. The death toll continuously to rose throughout the evening, with official numbers being tweeted by the Civil Defence Authority (in Arabic).
Lt Amr said that prior to the crash, the city had been suffering unusually high levels of rainfall, as well as winds of up to 50mph (83kph).
An unverified video, which was posted on YouTube, appears to have captured the moment the crane fell. A loud crashing noise can be heard in the background; the sound is quickly followed by shouting and panic.
Both Twitter and YouTube – as well as other social media platforms – have been inundated with images and videos that appear to show numerous bodies and blood on the floor.
Lt Amar said that an investigation was currently being carried out to assess the damage as well as the “extent of the safety of these sites.”
Saudi authorities began radical expansion of the site last year in an attempt to increase the area of the mosque by 4.3 million square feet (400,000 square metres). The expansion would have allowed the site to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at one time.
In 2012 over three million people undertook the Hajj pilgrimage. Since 2013 Saudi authorities have taken steps to reduce the number of people involved. The large numbers of people have resulted in numerous tragedies throughout the years, one of the most prominent being a stampede in 2006 that left almost 350 people dead.