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Saudi Says Mecca Crane Collapse Caused By High Winds

Saudi authorities say the powerful winds were to blame for the toppling of a massive crane that smashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque, killing at least 107 people ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Suleiman bin Abdullah al-Amro, the head of the civil defense directorate said on September 12 that the unusually high winds also tore down trees as a storm whipped through the area.

He denied reports that the crane was brought down by lightning or that some of those killed died in a stampede.

Parts of the Grand Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, remained sealed off around the toppled crane, which also injured more than 200 people when it fell into a courtyard on September 11.

There was no official word on the nationalities of the victims.

Saudi authorities said the hajj, expected to start on September 21, would proceed despite the tragedy.

More than 909,000 pilgrims have already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the Haj rituals, according to official figures released on September 12.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa