Mecca crane collapse: 107 dead at Saudi Arabia's Grand Mosque

Media captionUnverified amateur footage appears to capture the moment the crane collapsed

At least 107 people died and more than 230 people were injured when a crane collapsed in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque - the largest in the world - that was filled with worshippers at the time.

The head of Saudi Arabia's civil defence said strong winds and heavy rains had caused the collapse.

Mecca is currently preparing for the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to arrive in the Saudi city from all over the world later this month.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The crane was one of a number around the Grand Mosque while construction work is carried out
Image copyright AFP
Image caption It collapsed during stormy weather
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Emergency workers were quickly on the scene to deal with the high number of casualties
Image copyright AP
Image caption This image shows the overturned base of the crane

The collapse happened at 17:23 local time (14:23 GMT), said Director-General of the Saudi Civil Defence Authority, Lt Sulayman Bin-Abdullah al-Amr.

It happened at a time when many worshippers were there for Friday prayers.

The toll for the dead and injured, tweeted by the Civil Defence Authority (in Arabic), continued to rise throughout the evening.

Media captionFootage shows the aftermath of the crane collapse in Mecca

Shortly before the crash, the city had been hit by unusually high levels of rainfall and winds of up to 83kph (50mph), Lt Amr said.

A video posted on YouTube, which could not be independently verified, appeared to record the moment the crane fell, with a loud crash heard in the background followed by panic and shouting.

Images circulating on Twitter showed what looked like numerous bodies and blood on the floor of the mosque.

Lt Amr said an investigation was being carried out to assess the damage, and the "extent of the safety of these sites".

Mecca is preparing to welcome Muslims from around the world for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which begins in about 10 days' time.

Islam requires that every Muslim capable of doing so performs a pilgrimage to the site at least once in their lifetime.

Saudi authorities began a major expansion of the site last year to increase the area of the mosque by 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet), to allow it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people at once.

More than three million people undertook the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 2012. Saudi authorities have taken steps since 2013 to limit the number of people involved.

Large numbers of people have resulted in several tragedies over the years, including a stampede in 2006 that killed nearly 350 people.

More on this story

Around the BBC