Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
Tragedies do occur almost on a daily basis all across the world. Some are the result of human errors and the forces of nature cause some. Losing one’s loved ones is always painful. Truth be told, loss of lives affects everybody whether or not you are related with the victims. In Saudi Arabia, the expansion works on the Grand Mosque in Makkah has been a routine thing. Mega development projects at the Grand Mosque has always been our government’s first and foremost priority to ensure all kinds of comforts to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who reach the Kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest site. Despite almost continuous construction activities, the mosque has never faced closure because it is huge enough to accommodate more than a million worshippers during the five daily prayers and those who wish to perform different rituals. Last Friday, a tragedy befell the Muslim world in the evening. A crane crash resulted in the deaths of scores of pilgrims and left many injured. Most of them had arrived from various parts of the world to perform the annual pilgrimage called Haj. There are many theories circulating in various media outlets and through the Internet throwing light on the possible causes of the accident. But the one I found quite reliable was reported in the CNN. The CNN report brought back many memories of my studies of meteorology and my personal experiences about the power of gusty winds. Winds are very tricky. It is not only the speed of winds that can cause damage to buildings, bridges or large ships. In addition to the wind speed, it is the gust and its direction and finally the frequency. In 1940, Tacoma Narrows Bridge near Seattle collapsed and broke into pieces when it was hit by winds less than 70 km/h. But, it just happened that the wind hit the huge bridge at the right angle and the bridge simply continued shaking until it collapsed. In other words, disasters do happen and accidents do occur. In many cases, it is nobody’s fault but an act of God. On Friday evening, the speed of winds had reached tens of kilometers an hour in Makkah but the wind gust was reportedly far greater than the actual wind speed. There was a sudden drop in air temperature from more than 40 degrees centigrade to about 25 degrees centigrade in about one hour. This sudden drop causes metals to shrink very rapidly. Adding to this is the effect of the microburst, which causes a vacuum at certain locations. In other words, many natural factors must have been at work that caused such a huge tragedy. After the tragic incident, the authorities swung into action to help the injured. Hospitals in the area were put on a high alert and civil defense authorities inspected the site of the accident and surrounding areas under construction. The authorities are also working continuously to ensure completing the cleaning and repair works in the shortest possible time. At this time, it is important to console the injured and comfort the relatives and friends of the deceased. The generosity of the Saudi government in the wake of such accidents is a known fact. The government always extends the necessary help to all regardless of their nationalities. Now Haj is only a few days away and the Kingdom like every year has made all kinds of preparations and of the highest quality to ensure a smooth and problems-free Haj for all. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Makkah Tragedy: Grief-Stricken But Undeterred reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.