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Mecca crane collapse: Zuma extends his condolences

He sent his deepest sympathies and condolences to the government and everyone affected by the accident.

FILE: President Jacob Zuma. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has sent his condolences to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia following the accident involving a crane that fell over at the Grand Mosque in Mecca killing more than a hundred people.

The South African Hajj and Umrah Council says no South Africans were killed in the incident where strong winds caused the crane to fall.

Zuma sent his deepest sympathies and condolences to the government and everyone affected by the accident.

Picture: Supplied.

Although government has not received any information of South Africans who died in the tragedy, the Presidency says it will continue to monitor the situation.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said, "The South African government invites families who have their members in Mecca and are concerned about their well-being at the mosque to contact the department."

The department is expected to hold a media briefing on Sunday where the tragedy will be discussed.

Saudi emergency teams gather at the site of accident in the Grand Mosque of Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca on 11 September, 2015, after a construction crane crashed into it. Picture: AFP.

HAJJ PILGRIMAGE TO GO AHEAD

Earlier today, Saudi Arabian officials said this year's hajj pilgrimage will go ahead despite a crane collapse that has killed more than 100 people.

A probe has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the accident.

It's believed the crane was toppled by a heavy storm, killing at least 107 pilgrims and injuring 238 others.

Eyewitnesses have described scenes of chaos as the crane crashed into the pilgrims in the haram below.

While the nationalities of the dead and injured are yet to be confirmed, consuls general of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh said there were no confirmed deaths among their pilgrims.

Amir of Mecca and advisor of the custodian of the two holy mosques Prince Khaled al Faisal set up committees to probe the tragedy.

Al Faisal also requested the best medical care and support be made available to those injured in the accident.

The Presidency of the supreme hajj committee expressed deep sorrow over the tragedy and conveyed its condolences to the families of the pilgrims killed in the accident.

Just so u can understand how strong the winds were in Mecca pic.twitter.com/B5JnsE8td1

DEATH TOLL COULD RISE

At the same time, there are fears the death toll from the collapse of a crane could rise, with many still in hospital.

The tragedy comes as thousands make their way to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage, where some three million people are expected to gather later this month.

The religious gathering has seen other tragedies in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home.

The crane apparently collapsed after being hit by lightning as worshippers gathered from all over the world for annual gathering expected to begin on 21 September.

Following the disaster, health authorities in Mecca have declared an emergency at all hospitals in the city.

A statement by a spokesman for the administration of the mosques in Mecca and Medina said the crane smashed into the part of the Grand Mosque where worshippers circle the Kaaba, the black-clad cube towards which the world's 1,6 billion Muslims face to pray.

Saudi authorities go to great lengths to prepare for the millions of Muslims who converge on Mecca to perform the sacred pilgrimage.

Last year, they reduced the numbers permitted to make the haj pilgrimage on safety grounds because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque.

The haj, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rush to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in such a crush in 2006.

WATCH: Crane collapses at Grand Mosque in Mecca

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