Disaster at the Grand Mosque

At least 87 people (a number that’s likely to rise) are dead and another 180+ injured after a construction crane collapsed and and fell onto Mecca’s Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam. The Saudi government is planning to investigate the cause, but it’s very likely that it was weather-related, as Saudi Arabia has been dealing with strong storms (both of the sand and rain varieties) and high winds for a few days now, and the crane collapsed during a heavy rainstorm.

The Grand Mosque has been under almost constant construction in recent years, as Saudi authorities try to increase its capacity in order to accommodate the massive number of pilgrims who go there on Hajj every year. Speaking of which, this year’s Hajj begins on September 21, which explains why the mosque was as full as it was; many Muslims who are making the Hajj arrive a few days early so that they can also complete both the Hajj and a recommended-but-not-obligatory “lesser pilgrimage,” or ʿumrah, without having to make two separate journeys to Mecca. There’s going to be tremendous pressure on the Saudis to have the mosque ready for the much larger influx of pilgrims in 10 days.

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