Mecca Crane Collapse – “Act Of God” Or Simply “Human Negligence”?

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Sep 13 2015
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Does anyone still remember Mr Samy Vellu? Looking back in time, 30 million Malaysians should have missed this comedian a bunch, well, at least I do. As a former Works Minister, he was instrumental in finding the root cause of landslide along the North-South Expressway (PLUS) near Gua Tempurung in Perak more than ten years ago.


According to him – it was an “Act of God”. It may sound ridiculous and hilarious, but blaming God seems to be the best answer to all the problems in the world. After all, how can you challenge and question the God? By the same token, Najib Razak (wife Rosmah) and Zahid Hamidi also proudly pronounced it was “God’s will” that they become prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively.

Samy Vellu

Now, the “Act of God” reason (or rather excuse) is being used in Saudi Arabia after a giant crane collapsed, killing at least 107 people with more than 238 people injured. The huge red crane crashed into a part of the Grand Mosque – the largest in the world – that was filled with worshippers at the time.


The tragedy which happened at a time when many worshippers were there for Friday prayers, has invited questions about safety, particularly because on September 22, millions of Muslims around the world will be coming for the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - toppled

An engineer for Saudi Binladin Group, which is carrying out a massive expansion of the mosque, told AFP the crane, like many others on the project, had been there for three or four years without any problem. Refused to be identified, the engineer claims it was not a technical issue. So, what could be the problem then?


The engineer’s answer – “I can only say that what happened was beyond the power of humans. It was an act of God and, to my knowledge, there was no human fault in it at all.” He further explained – “The crane’s heavy hook, which is able to lift hundreds of tonnes, began swaying and moved the whole crane with it, toppling into the mosque”

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - location map

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - Victims in Blood

However, the governor of Mecca region, Prince Khaled al-Faisal, ordered an investigation into the tragic accident, although Saudi Binladin Group (belongs to the family of the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden) blames it on God. A witness said the accident occurred during winds which were so strong they shook his car and tossed billboards around.


Amazingly, the incident occurred on September 11, the anniversary date of 9/11 attack by Osama bin Laden’s terror group on America. Naturally, netizens took to the social medias debating on the tragedy – from karma, sabotage by the Jews or U.S., an attack by ISIS, God’s punishment on filthy rich but inhumane Saudi people, and whatnot.

Osama bin Laden - al-Qaida Leader

Saudi Binladen Group is the second largest construction company in the world and was founded by billionaire Mohammed Bin Laden (father of Osama Bin Laden). The Binladin family has been close to the ruling Al Saud family for decades and oversees major building projects around the country. It was awarded the US$21 billion project to expand the Grand Mosque.


But Irfan al-Alawi, co-founder of the Mecca-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, suggested that authorities were negligent by having a series of cranes overlooking the mosque. Meanwhile, Richard Angwin, Al Jazeera’s senior weather presenter, said the autumn period is when half of Mecca’s thunderstorms occur.

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - crashed site and people killed

So, if it’s natural to have thunderstorms in the area, why didn’t the contractor – Saudi Binladin Group – issues a temporary stop work order? Surely it doesn’t need a rocket scientist to tell you the risk of having several cranes moving above hundreds or thousands of Muslim worshippers on Friday.


Clearly, the contractor or engineer took the easy way out with lame justification that since the crane was there for the last three or four years, it should be safe for the rest of the project. It was like saying since you’ve never met a car accident for the last three or four years, accident won’t happen to you, so why bother about safety belts or car maintenance.

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - Red Cranes Surrounds Grand Mosque

Was the foundation of the German-made Liebherr Group crawler crane somehow had been weakened after years of wear and tear and whatnot? With so many cranes on the construction site, why the fierce winds targeted only this particular crane? Could the huge crane hit by lightning before collapsing and crashing into the Grand Mosque?

Saudi Arabia Crane Collapse - lighting strike

Update 1: Photo (above) of a lighting strike is updated on this article, but speculations were running wild that the photo was “photoshopped” by Saudi officials (and contractor Saudi Binladin Group) to put the blame on “God”.


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First of all,

There is a safe wind speed prescribed by every crane manufacturer for safe working.

Wind speed/gust always has considerable impact on crane operation. This was a crawler crane with luffing jib (seems from picture, other cranes are luffing tower cranes)). Extra care should have been taken to secure the jib in heavy wind conditions.

Other reason might be the ground compactness which is again very critical in crawling a crane.

It is an act of God. . .

The mobile crane LR-11350 which was collapsed backward, most probably parked with boom upright (instead of lowering or retracted position), as a result wind force the crane toppled backward. Backward stability is very low for such mobile crane. It’s clearly a case of negligence from Bin Ladin’s company. They should take the blame rather than blaming Allah.

Do agree with the above comments, however from the article it is not clear- planned maintenance system was adhered {operation of cranes for past 3to 4 years} ,if risk assessment was carried out and necessary control measures were in place,the wind speed at ground level and at the vertical height was accounted for, the stability of crane vs load moments etc ware accounted n control measures were in place.it is imperative to find the root cause of the incident, ln order to avoid the recurrence of similar incidents in future.

It was an accident. I think no one would definitely want this. 90% of crane accidents are comprised of human error but this is an accident and it happens!

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