Saudi Arabia has completed the inquiry into the Mecca Grand Mosque crane accident and Riyadh is expected to announce the findings within weeks.
About half a dozen engineers employed by Saudi BinLaden Group (SBG), the main contractor on the mosque expansion project, have been found negligent, according to two people familiar with the matter. It is understood that SBG could be penalised with hefty fines but the contractor is expected to be cleared to carry on work on the project, people said asking not to be identified as the matter is not public.
SBG has already paid compensation to victims of the accident, which claimed more than 100 lives and injured 238 people, the people said.
In the aftermath of the accident, the contractor was suspended from working on the project. However, it is understood that SBG had not fully ceased work and it is still finishing some of the tasks at the site.
The entire case of the unfortunate crane incident in Makkah is still handled by the authorities, a SBG spokesman said in a statement in response to questions from MEED. Thus, we cant comment upon any speculations relevant to the investigations findings or any verdicts that might result from such legal proceedings.
Saudi authorities had launched an inquiry in September last year when a heavy storm forced a crane collapse onto the worshipers in the mosque, Islams holiest site. Images and videos of the mobile crawler crane that were posted online suggested that it had not been lowered for the storm and toppled over due to strong winds. Construction companies normally have strict procedures for lowering cranes during high winds, typically, when wind speeds reach 60-70 kilometres per hour.
SBG, the biggest contracting firm in the kingdom, has been scrutinised since the accident. The contractor has seen its top-boss, Bakr bin Ladin, handing over reins to Saleh Mohammed bin Ladin. It is also barred from winning new contracts.
More recently, Saudi Arabias Ministry of Finance has instructed SBG to stop work on expansion of the Prophets Mosque in Medina, Islams second holy site.
The ministry, in a letter sent to the SBGs general manager on 29 December, just a day after the kingdom announced a budget with sweeping economic reforms, has asked the contractor to finish some of the ongoing work on the site and stop execution of the project thereafter until further notice, without giving reasons for the move.
The letter, seen by MEED, was also sent to project consultant Dar al-Handasah.
The General Presidency for Grand Mosque and Prophet Mosque Affairs had appointed SBG as main contractor on estimated $1.5bn makeover of the Prophests mosque in June 2012 with a completion date target of June 2016.