Two Indian Haj pilgrims killed in Mecca Grand Mosque accident

Two Indian Haj pilgrims, one from Kerala and the other from West Bengal, were among the 107 people killed in the crane accident at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca, while 15 Indians are among the injured, officials said on Saturday.

Two Indian Haj pilgrims killed in Mecca Grand Mosque accident
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Riyadh: Two Indian Haj pilgrims, one from Kerala and the other from West Bengal, were among the 107 people killed in the crane accident at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi Arabian holy city of Mecca, while 15 Indians are among the injured, officials said on Saturday.

 

According to External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, 15 Indians have been injured in the incident. They are being treated at hospitals and assistance have been provided to them.

He added that senior officers, including India's Consul General, are on the ground in Mecca. Indian doctors have been deployed in all government hospitals.

"Regrettably we have been informed that 2 Indians have been killed in the unfortunate accident. They were from Kerala," Swarup added.

A 33-year-old woman from Palakkad has been identified among the dead. A relative of the victim told reporters at her home here that the news was conveyed to them by her husband Muhammed Ismail.

"They left from here on Tuesday (for the Haj). The sad news has not been conveyed to their three young children. The last rites would be performed there and Ismail will return only after completing the pilgrimage," said the relative.

The Ministry of External Affairs, meanwhile, said that the second Keralite has not yet been identified. However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said a woman from the state is among those killed in the crane accident.

"As of now, one death and two injuries have been reported from our state. Muniza Ahmed from Asansol has lost her life. Liakat Hossain from West Midnapore and Hasem Ali from Malda have received injuries," Banerjee said on Facebook.

Also Read: Bengal woman killed in Grand Mosque tragedy: Mamata

In the meantime, General Suleiman al-Amr, director general of the Civil Defence Authority, told al-Ikhbariya television: "All those who were wounded and the dead have been taken to hospital. There are no casualties left at the location.”

Strong wind and rains had uprooted trees and rocked cranes in the area, he said.

A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba - the black-clad cube towards which the world`s 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray.

Also Read: India issues helpline numbers for Mecca Haj tragedy

Pictures circulating on social media showed pilgrims in bloodied robes and debris from a part of the crane that appeared to have crashed through a ceiling.

Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslims who converge on Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage. Last year, they reduced the numbers permitted to make the haj pilgrimage on safety grounds because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque.

After the conclusion of the current and final expansion, the mosque could accommodate more than three million worshipers in one hour.

The haj, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a crush in 2006.

Saudi authorities have since spent vast sums to expand the main haj sites and improve Mecca`s transport system, in an effort to prevent more disasters.

Security services often ring Islam`s sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorisation.

Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years as security threats grow throughout the Middle East.

(With Agency inputs)