About 87 pilgrims died on Friday at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when a pillar from one of the construction sites of the ongoing expansion of the mosque collapsed.
The nationalities of the victims have not been confirmed at the time of filing this report.
It was also unclear if Nigerians were among them.
The incident occurred during heavy rainfall which was preceded by strong wind and a massive storm after pilgrims waiting for the September 23 date of Arafat performed the Asr (late afternoon) prayer which was observed around 4pm (2pm Nigerian time).
Eyewitness said one of the cranes being used for construction was hit by a thunder storm during the rainfall and then fell on one the pillars around the Ka’abba where thousands of pilgrims were.
A Nigerian witness said several pilgrims were feared dead after the pillar fell into their midst while they were performing Tawaf (circumambulation) rites.
“I was inside (the mosque) when this happened. The storm was too much and the crane fell on people. It shook the mosque. I can’t say the actual number of victims but many people were on the ground injured,” the witness said.
Security operatives involved in rescue of the dead and the injured told reporters that scores of pilgrims were confirmed dead while several others sustained serious injuries.
Though there has not been official statements on the death toll and casualty figures, medics and multiple eyewitnesses put the dead at 87 and injured at 180. Ambulances were also seen busy taking the dead and injured away.
The Saudi Arabia authorities had earlier in the day announced that nearly 800,000 pilgrims have arrived from across the world to perform this year hajj.
According to statistics from the Passport Department on Thursday, 796,581 pilgrims have so far landed in Saudi Arabia for the annual pilgrimage that begins in another 10 days.
Prior to Friday’s tragic incident, the Saudi Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has said that all expansion projects for this year’s Hajj were on schedule.
Meanwhile, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has said it is working to ascertain if Nigerians were among the victims of the disaster.
NAHCON Coordinator in Makkah and chairman of the transport committee Dr. Aliyu Tanko told reporters on telephone last night that officials of the commission are at the site of the accident and also working with the Saudi authorities to verify if Nigerians were involved.