Crane Accident: Saudi Begins Victims’ Identification As Death Toll Hits 107


Saudi Authorities yesterday began the process of identifying the 107 victims of Friday’s crane accident at the holy Mosque in Kaabah.

Pilgrims from all parts of the World had gathered in Mecca for this year’s hajj with some of them inside the Mosque when a crane being used for the expansion of the grand mosque crashed, killing 107 pilgrims with over 180 others sustaining serious injuries.

There has been apprehension in the Nigerian camp whether any of our pilgrims was involved.

The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) yesterday allayed the fears with a confirmation that none of the pilgrims from Nigeria died in the crane accident.

The Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Mukhtar Abdullahi Muhammed told news men in Abuja, yesterday that no Nigerian died in the accident that claimed the lives of 107 pilgrims.

He, however, said three Nigerians sustained minor injuries and are responding to treatment.

Though he did not give the names of the injured pilgrims, he said two were from Kaduna and one from Gombe state.

As at yesterday, Saudi authorities said they had begun the process of identifying the victims before they would be buried in the holy land.

They promised to contact all countries that might have lost any of her citizens in the crane accident.

Parts of the Grand Mosque remained sealed yesterday around where the crane crashed but government officials said the annual pilgrimage would go on as scheduled.

LEADERSHIP Sunday correspondent in Mecca observed that there was little mourning around the site as pilgrims continued to take pictures of the wreckage and offer prayers for the dead.

Some of the pilgrims however wished they had died in the accident.

“I wish I had died in the accident as it happened at a holy hour and in a holy place,” a pilgrim from Egypt told newsmen.

Already, a committee had begun investigating the cause of the collapse of the crane.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghandi, former head of Mecca’s religious police however described the accident as an act of God.

Meanwhile, men and officer of the Nigerian Armed Forces on holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia have extended medical treatment to other Nigerian pilgrims in the Holy Land.

This was just as other pilgrims from respective Nigerian states benefitted from a hajj lecture organised by the Armed Forces in Madina.

Explaining why the soldiers were rendering such humanitarian assistance, Director of Islamic Affairs, Nigerian Army, Colonel Shehu Garba Mustapha, said that it was part of their training that anywhere they find themselves, they protect Nigerians therein.

Colonel Mustapha, who is also the leader of the Armed Forces delegation to Saudi Arabia, however pointed out that they were not in Saudi Arabia to provide such services to pilgrims, but to members of the Armed Forces and their families on Holy pilgrimage.

According to him, 400 Armed Forces officers and personnel, including their families, were in Saudi Arabia for the 2015 hajj exercise.

“So, just like states, the Nigerian Armed Forces get allocation from the National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) every year and we pay for the seats. This year, 400 of us including over 10 generals from the three services are on the Holy pilgrimage, including members of our family.

“Therefore, it is mandatory for us to provide medical care for our members and that is why we are here with our medical team. But along the line, other pilgrims who stay in the same house with us here in Madina, come for medical care and since they are Nigerians, we have to provide them with such care,” he added.

President Buhari Mourns Victims

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with King Salman, the people of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic community worldwide, over the loss of lives.

A statement by the senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, noted that the president prayed Allah to receive the souls of those killed in the incident and grant the injured speedy recovery.

He added that as details of the deaths and injuries sustained in the unfortunate incident unfold, Buhari has directed the ministry of foreign affairs to ensure the safety of all Nigerian pilgrims in that country.

“President Buhari has directed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Nigerian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to closely monitor developments and take necessary action to ensure the security and well-being of all Nigerian pilgrims,” Shehu stated.

The statement made available to LEADERSHIP Sunday further noted that the President also urged “all Nigerians to pray for the continued safety of their compatriots who are currently in Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj.”

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