By Felipe Bueno
A crane collapse in the holy city of Mecca on September 11 claimed the lives of 107 immigrants who had traveled to the city for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The accident occurred during a thunderstorm at the busiest time of day, reaping a high number of casualties that made the incident the second largest crane collapse in recent history. However, the circumstances surrounding the accident have led some to question whether it was an accident or an intentional crime.
The crane belongs to the Saudi Bin Laden Group, a multinational conglomerate group founded in 1931 by Mohammed bin Laden, father of the infamous Osama bin Laden. The Guardian reports that the Bin Laden Group has been working in Mecca for the past four years to expand the mosque, in order to accommodate the large number of pilgrims that travel there every year. In total, the Bin Laden Group has 15 cranes working on the site, leading many workers to fear for their safety, as the cranes are all in the same condition as the one that collapsed.
According to The Guardian, many people, including executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation Dr. Irfan al-Alawi, attributed the collapse to health and safety conditions in Mecca. Many workers refuse to put on gloves, helmets, or increased visibility vests due to high temperatures throughout the day; BBC reports an average high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius). Additionally, many companies do not have any regulations or safety standards, evident from the existence of demolished buildings alongside lanes of traffic.
NBC reports that the Saudi Arabian government suspended the company from new contracts following the incident. Additionally, King Salman has placed a ban on Bin Laden Group senior executives and board members from leaving the country. The order followed an investigation launched last week which found that the crane was not built according to the manufacturer’s standards. This brings into question whether other cranes were also built in sub-par condition.
The most debated part of the incident is the strange circumstances surrounding the event. As previously mentioned, the company was founded by the father of one of the most infamous terrorists in modern history and run by some of his family, including his children. There is much controversy as some believe there is a link between the accident and the Bin Laden family. Yet possibly the biggest source of unease is the fact that this occurred on September 11, the anniversary of one of the most notorious acts of modern terrorism. The date of the incident and the company’s ties to Osama Bin Laden has left many feeling uneasy and looking for a correlation between the two. However, a connection between the two is difficult to prove as there appears to be no motive and the incident occurred on what is considered “holy soil.”