No Singaporean casualties reported, says foreign ministry

Saudi emergency teams stand next to a construction crane after it crashed into the Grand Mosque of Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca on Sept 11, 2015.
Saudi emergency teams stand next to a construction crane after it crashed into the Grand Mosque of Saudi Arabia's holy Muslim city of Mecca on Sept 11, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

No Singaporeans were hurt when a massive crane crashed into Mecca's Grand Mosque during a storm last Friday, killing at least 107 people and injuring more than 200.

"As of now, there are no reports of any Singaporean casualties," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said yesterday. "MFA will continue to keep in close contact with Singaporeans in the Kingdom, and monitor developments closely."

Up to two million people from all over the world are expected to descend upon the Saudi Arabian city later this month for the annual haj pilgrimage.

According to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), there are currently 43 pilgrims from Singapore in Saudi Arabia, accompanied by six members of the Singapore Pilgrims' Affairs Office.

They were the first batch to set off on Sept 1. The rest of the 680 pilgrims from Singapore - a quota set by Saudi authorities - are due to depart over four days this week.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim described the incident as "unfortunate", and advised pilgrims to stay in contact with their travel agency and Muis officials when they are in Mecca.

"I'm glad that none of our pilgrims are affected by this accident. At the same time, we never know whether another accident can happen, so let us be careful," said Dr Yaacob.

Travel agencies said they have not received any calls from concerned customers regarding the tragedy.

"Our customers understand that it was a one-time accident. We definitely don't expect another crane to fall tomorrow," said Ms Juyda Noor Mohamad, 33, whose father owns Noor Mohamad Services & Travel. The agency has 93 pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia.

Madam Ruby Rashid, 50, director of Ruby Rashid Travel & Tours, said "There's no need to worry. Our customers are accompanied by doctors and nurses, so if anything happens, they will help."

As a safety precaution, her customers are told to wear tags, which include their names, an image of Singapore's flag and the agency's name, in case they get lost or hurt during the trip.

Hamidah Travel & Tours' haj manager Shaik Dawood Mohd Yacob, 50, who is leading a group of 26 to Saudi Arabia tomorrow night, said: "We're sure the Saudi authorities will take precautions to ensure our safety. It is also compulsory for all our haj customers to be covered by insurance, and it's included in the package."

One of the pilgrims due to depart this week, IT engineer Abdul Sattar, 32, said he was shocked when he heard about the crane collapse early yesterday morning, but he will go ahead with the 23-day trip, which cost him more than $10,000.

"This is my faith, my belief. Going on the haj is an important event for every Muslim and I'm lucky to get a chance to go, especially with the quota," he said. "I'll try to avoid crowded places, keep to the group and be careful."

•Additional reporting by Samantha Boh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'No Singaporean casualties reported, says foreign ministry'. Print Edition | Subscribe