Riyadh: Even as Saudi Arabia mourned the 107 dead and commiserated with the 238 injured when a crane crashed on to worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca amid high winds last week on Friday, it has begun an investigation into the cause and is attempting to fix responsibility for the disaster, something normally not seen in the kingdom. The families of the dead and the permanently injured are to get SAR 1m in compensation according to authorities here.
The Contractor, that owned the crane, the Bin Ladin Group, has been barred from further public contracts and its board members and senior executive have been barred from leaving the country according to the country’s official news agency. Reports say prima facie, the crane was in the wrong place and that the company had not respected safety norms.
The Binladin group, one of the kingdom’s largest construction groups was founded in 1931 by the father of Osama bin Laden, the late leader of AL-Qaeda, the Islamist extremist group.
The expansion of the Grand Mosque is one of the kingdom’s largest and most controversial construction projects. Launched by the late King Abdullah in 2011, the project will expand the capacity of the mosque from 770,000 worshipers to more than 1.5m. Valued at SAR 100 bn, it is scheduled for completion at the end of this year.
The Kingdom is not known for strong regulation of local companies and especially influential ones like the Bin Ladin Group. It is possibly an indication that the kingdom recognises that it is time it opened its doors wider to foreign investment in light of crashing oil prices.