Al-Arabiya television earlier said the crane had fallen because of strong storms. Western Saudi Arabia has been hit by strong sand storms in the past few days.
According to a report on Al-Jazeera television, the crane fell on the east side of the mosque after a sandstorm and heavy rain. It said that the building’s doors were shut and people were locked inside. Its reporter said there was “slight pandemonium” and that one person was killed in the rush to get out.
The reporter said:“Dozens of ambulances are heading to the site. The authorities closed off the area shortly afterwards. This whole place is already a construction site. What made it worse is that around 5.30pm there was severe rain and it’s just gushing down the road. I am surrounded by people who are grieving. The mood here is of sadness.”
The country’s civil defence authority said on its Twitter account that rescue teams had been sent to the scene. The tweet said that the authority’s director general Suleiman al-Amr attended.
The Grand Mosque, which houses the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure towards which Muslims worldwide pray, has been surrounded by a number of cranes. Reconstruction work has been going on to enlarge the mosque by 400,000 sq m (4.3 m sq ft), allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million people.
The work has continued for the past two years and was expected to be largely completed before this year’s pilgrimage, which begins on 22 September.