All able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are supposed to go to Mecca during the week of the Hajj at least once in their lives, but this year the event has again been marred by tragedy, as 107 people were killed when a crane collapsed on top of worshippers gathering outside the Grand Mosque.
The crane was operated by the Saudi Binladin Group (some relation – it is run by Osama’s brother). The group has been hired on a 4 year contract worth $27 billion to expand the Grand Mosque.
The accident happened during high winds and heavy rain, and one of the company’s engineers said it was an ‘act of God’, but the Saudi government’s official mouthpiece said the Binladin Group had not ‘respected the rules of safety’, and the company’s directors have been ordered not to leave the country.
At the Hajj in 1990, more than 1,400 pilgrims were killed in a fatal crush in a tunnel. Four years later, at least 270 died in another stampede. A fire in 1997 killed 343, and further stampedes in 2004 and 2006 killed another 580.