At least 87 dead after crane collapses in Mecca

A crane crashed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca during a thunderstorm Friday, killing at least 87 people and injuring 184. Authorities did not provide details on the victims' nationalities, but it is likely the tragedy will touch several countries.

Uncredited/Saudi TV via AP
In this still image taken from video released by Saudi TV, a crane is seen collapsed over the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing dozens, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. The accident happened as pilgrims from around the world converged on the city, Islam's holiest site, for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this month. (Saudi TV via AP) Uncredited

During a violent thunderstorm Friday in Saudi Arabia's city of Mecca, Islam's holiest site, a construction crane crashed into the Grand Mosque and killed at least 87 people. The accident comes ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage later this month.

Videos and photos posted on social media show a grisly scene, with police and bystanders attending to bloodied bodies on the polished mosque floors.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense authority provided a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account. As of late Friday, it said 184 people were injured.

A photo posted online by the authority showed police and workers in hardhats inspecting a pile of collapsed concrete slabs inside a part of the sprawling, ornately decorated mosque.

Authorities did not provide details on the victims' nationalities, but it was likely that the tragedy will touch several countries.

The Grand Mosque and the cube-shaped Kaaba within it draw Muslims of all types from around the world throughout the year, though numbers increase significantly in the run-up to the hajj.

Performing the pilgrimage once during one's lifetime is a duty for all able-bodied Muslims.

Other Saudi officials could not immediately be reached or referred queries to the civil defense statements.

Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary. Steep hills and low-rise traditional buildings that once surrounded the mosque have in recent years given way to shopping malls and luxury hotels — among them the world's third-tallest building.

Pan-satellite Al-Jazeera Television broadcast footage from inside the mosque compound said to be from the aftermath of the accident, showing the floor strewn with rubble and what appear to be pools of blood.

Another video, on a Twitter posting, captured the apparent moment of the crane's collapse during a heavy rainstorm, with a loud boom, screams and confusion.

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Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Dubai contributed to this report.

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