UPDATE 01/08/2006: An excellent op-ed, by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed appears in today’s Asharq Alawsat. He believes the collapse to be an indication of the lack of responsibility on the part of government and others. It’s a good piece, worth reading.
UPDATE 01/07/2006: Today’s Asharq Alawsat is reporting that the deathtoll has now reached 76. The article notes that the collapsed hotel was 30 years old. It would have been built during the first flush of oil money coming into the Kingdom, when dreams of quick riches often hid sub-standard construction.
The Italian news agency AKI reports Authorities Launch Probe as Death Toll Rises.
UPDATE 01/06/2006:Reuters offers an updated report on the calamity.
Tragedy has again struck Makkah at Haj time. At least 15 people have died in the collapse of a multistory pilgrim hostel a stoneâ€™s throw from the Grand Mosque. Reports speak of at least 80 injured.
The tragedy is all the greater because the Haj is meant to be a time of spiritual grace, of renewal, a once-in-a-lifetime experience of joy, not an appointment with death. A tragedy during the Haj is more shocking because it is one of lifeâ€™s pinnacle events.
The building collapse in Mecca this morning is raising questions. While governmental buildings must be built to certain engineering standards, and while private buildings also are supposed to be built to these standards, it’s clear that at least some private buildings are not.
It’s not clear how old this building is. Given its location, a few meters from the Grand Mosque, there’s a good chance that it’s old. But even old buildings need supervsion, as this Arab News editorial spells out.
It’s still too easy for a landlord to get around regulations with a little extra money under the table, or simply to do a favor for a friend who might return it. Clearly, the deaths weren’t intended, but they happened nonetheless.
The paper also carries front-page reporting on the collapse, with many details and eye-witness reports. The photo that accompanies the story lends support to the idea that it was an older building.