"I thought it was thunder. Then there was chaos" Haj pilgrim Mahzan Misni MECCA CRANE COLLAPSE INTERACTIVE



Reports Nik Imran Abdullah, Sulaiman Jaafar, Melissa Darlyne Chow, Rozanna Latiff, Koi Kye Lee, Tharanya Arumugam, Kalbana Perimbanayagam, Halim Said, Masriwanie Muhamading, Priya Pubalan, and Norjuliana Yaacob.

Pictures Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali, Nik Abdullah Nik Omar, Reuters, and AFP.

InfoGraphic Ahmad Yusri.

Interactive Bazuki Muhammad.

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The print version of this story was published in New Sunday Times on 13 September 2015.

MECCA : A witness to the crane collapse tragedy in the Grand Mosque here said she was on the first floor of the mosque when the incident occurred.


"I was praying near Door 20, and the collapsed crane was near Door 19. I was fortunate, as for the past week, I had been praying near Door 19," Marria Aris, 40, from Semporna, Sabah, told Bernama.


She is with her husband on their haj pilgrimage.


She said her husband, who was praying on a lower level at the time, was unharmed.


"When the crane collapsed, it sounded like the mosque was falling down. Everyone was running helterskelter as rainwater spilled into the prayer area."


Another pilgrim, Mahzan Misni, said he was metres away from the spot where the crane toppled over.


"There was a loud noise. I thought it was thunder.


"Then, there was chaos. The saie (prayer hall) on the first floor became dark with the dust churned up by the crane collapse.


"Moments later, I saw bodies sprawled all over the place.


"Some pilgrims were covered in blood. Others had their clothes stained with the blood of the dead." Mohd Razak Jaid, 59, from Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, who was on the second floor of the mosque at the time of the incident, said he helped pilgrims who were in a state of confusion.


"I pulled away a pilgrim from Thailand in the nick of time from falling bricks and rubble after the crane collapsed.


"The situation became chaotic, with pilgrims from the saie area rushing out and those from the outside running in."


The police pensioner said he saw bodies sprawled on the ground.


Zaiton Isa, 57, said she and her roommate at the Abraj Al-Janadria hotel, Zurina Zakaria, 49, were on the second floor at the time of the incident.


"Suddenly, there was a loud bang. I thought a building had collapsed.


"Pilgrims then started to push their way out of the area."

Pilgrims walk past the collapsed crane.  Ahmed Farwan/AFP PHOTO

In Sik, Kedah, Robiah Abdullah found out about the crane collapse only yesterday morning when she was informed by her younger brother.


Her television set is broken, and so, she had no way of knowing what had happened.


As soon as she heard the news, Robiah, 65, began to worry about her husband, Abdul Habib Lahman, 68.


She asked her son to call the head of the pilgrimage group that her husband was a part of.


"The head of the group informed me that my husband was safe and with him.


"But I will be worried as long as I do not hear my husband's voice," she said, adding that the family had tried to contact Habib on his mobile phone, but to no avail.


At press time, Tabung Haji had listed Habib as one of the eight missing Malaysians.

Noor Filzah Abu Bakar (R), the daughter of pilgrim Zainun Taha who is listed missing.

Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali/NEW SUNDAY TIMES

In Pasir Putih, Kelantan, the family of Munah Jusoh, 73, who is missing, is worried for her safety and hopes she will be found.


Her daughter, Halimah Che Muda, 47, said family members would perform special prayers at the Kuala Besut mosque.


"My mother left Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday with my father (Che Muda Che Tahir, 76).


"She was excited to have been chosen to perform the pilgrimage, as she had wanted to go since last year," said Halimah, the third of seven siblings, at the family home in Kampung Bukit Kecil, Cherang Ruku.


She said her father had called at 11.30pm on Friday to inform her that her mother was missing, adding that everyone in the family was shocked and saddened over the incident.


Halimah said her father told her that her mother had left for the mosque early for Asar prayers with her roommates at 3.30pm and that he would follow later, but he could not do so because of a storm, which eventually caused the crane to collapse.

"Let us offer an al-Fatihah to the pilgrims. We also pray for all Malaysian pilgrims to be safe," Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak

In Kubang Pasu, Kedah, the family of Shahidan Saad is praying for his safe return.


Norhayati Ishak, 53, said her 52-year-old brother-in-law was one of the eight Malaysians missing in the incident.


Her husband, Sobri Saad, who is Shahidan's older brother, said the family was, however, glad that Shahidan's wife, Maziatubazna Bidin @ Ibrahim, was safe.

Ahamed Qimaweddy Idris shows a picture of his parents Mat Deris Mohd Noor and Faridah Mat Yaakob before they left for Mecca. His father and mother have been injured in the tragedy.

Nik Abdullah Nik Omar/NEW SUNDAY TIMES

In Bachok, Kelantan, the children of Mat Deris Mohd Noor and Faridah Mat Yaacob, who were injured in the incident, were still in shock.


Eldest son Mohd Mubassyir, 30, said family members were grappling with the news, as they had yet to be officially informed about the incident by Tabung Haji.


"I knew about the incident through the Internet, but I didn't know that my parents were affected.


"I learnt that they were among those injured two hours later through WhatsApp groups.


"I tried to contact them. Finally, a friend, who is a Tabung Haji staff member, located my mother, who was resting at a hostel after receiving outpatient treatment at a clinic," he said at his parents' home in Kampung Cherang Sepulai.


According to Tabung Haji, Mat Deris suffered a broken right femur and was admitted to King Abdul Aziz Hospital, while Faridah suffered minor injuries to the head.


Mohamad Haslan Mokhtar, 35, said he had a bad feeling when he saw cranes around the Grand Mosque upon his arrival three weeks ago.


He is performing the haj with his wife, Muspirah Husain, 31.


"Some areas are cordoned off and off-limits to pilgrims. There are still workers at the project site, but the cranes are not operational during the haj season," he told the New Sunday Times via a mobile messaging application.


The crane collapse, he said, sent shivers down his spine, as two days earlier, he had wondered what would happen if one of the cranes toppled over.


"Call it an instinct or gut feeling, but I thought about something like that happening.


"I wondered if anyone could escape if the cranes were to fall. My fears came true on Friday."

The collapsed crane. Mohamed Al Hwaity/REUTERS