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Lessons from the Makka crane incident

The tragedy that struck at the Grand Mosque in Makka, Saudi Arabia, on 11 September, 2015 left a total of 118 killed and 394 others…

The tragedy that struck at the Grand Mosque in Makka, Saudi Arabia, on 11 September, 2015 left a total of 118 killed and 394 others with various degrees of injuries.
The incident happened when a crawler crane toppled over on to the Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque – the largest in the world which was filled with worshippers at the time of the incident.
General Suleiman bin Abdullah al-Amro, the head of the civil defence directorate confirmed that a crane collapsed through the ceiling of the mosque, during strong winds created by a powerful storm.
Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Mansouri, the spokesman for the Presidency of the Mecca and Medina Mosque Affairs, said in a statement that the accident happened during a severe storm carrying strong winds and heavy rain.
The sad incident occurred when the Holy City of Makka was preparing for the 1436 AH pilgrimage and at the height of vast expansion works at the Grand Mosque and other hajj sites, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards.
The National Hajj Commission (NAHCON) has confirmed the death of six Nigerians in the incident.
Chairman of NAHCON, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammed, said four Gombe pilgrims and one each from Kaduna and Katsina states died, with another two and one Kaduna and Gombe pilgrims injured.
An engineer for the Bin Laden Group has claimed the incident was an ‘act of God’.
The unnamed engineer also insisted there was no technical problem, stressing that the crane had been installed in ‘an extremely professional way.’
Similarly, Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, former head of Mecca’s religious police, said the accident was a ‘test’ from God.
That notwithstanding, immediately after the incident, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca, directed search and rescue teams and medical workers from the Saudi Red Crescent to swing into action, a development that saved the lives of many people that were trapped.
Similarly, Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, vowed that the accident will be investigated and the results will be made public.
After receiving the report on the investigation into the incident, King Salman ordered on September 15, only four days after the incident, that top officials of the Saudi Bin Ladin Group be banned from traveling outside the kingdom.
He also directed that the group be suspended from taking new projects.
 The report blamed the accident partially on the construction company. A royal court announcement suggested negligence on the part of the Saudi Bin Ladin Group, but concluded that it found an “absence of criminal suspicion”.
Observers believe that the step taken by the Saudi authorities was “very significant”.
Most importantly, the compensation announced for families of the deceased and those that sustained injuries is momentous.
King Salman had ordered that a million Saudi riyal (US$266,000) be paid as compensation to each of the families of those who died in the crane collapse.
The King equally announced that two relatives of each of the deceased are to be the King’s guests for Hajj in 2016.
He also directed that a million Saudi Riyals (US$266,000) to be paid to each victim of the collapse with a permanent disability, and half a million riyal (US$133,000) to be paid as compensation to collapse victims without lasting injuries.
The King capped it all by announcing that the compensation payments will not prevent private legal claims by the injured and families of the deceased.
While we pray for the repose of the souls of all those that died in the incident, we wish commended the efforts of the Saudi authorities for their timely intervention.
By and large, Nigerian authorities should learn from the Saudi experience in terms of timely intervention, assistance, prosecution and compensation in times of emergencies.

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