A crane has collapsed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca killing and injuring hundreds just weeks before Islams annual Hajj pilgrimage.
The Kingdoms General Directorate of Civil Defense blamed the accident on severe storms, according to its official Twitter.
The governor of the Makkah region, the capital of which is Mecca, Khalid al-Faisal has ordered the launch of an investigation into the causes of the accident.
The tragedy comes ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage which is due later this month. Millions of Muslims from around the world will converge on the holy city between September 21-26.
Photos taken from the scene and posted on social media show bodies lying in blood on the mosques floor surrounded by construction rubble and metal parts of the crane.
Over 68 emergency and rescue groups are active at the scene of the accident, the Saudi Red Crescent said on Facebook.
Director General of the Civil Defense Authority, confirmed to al-Ikhbariya television that storm winds had uprooted trees and affected cranes in the area.
The tragic incident in Saudi Arabia occurred shortly before the 6:30pm Friday evening prayer session one of the busiest times of the week causing devastation to what is the largest mosque in the world.
Several cranes surround the mosque to support the ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary.
The mosque stands at 3.84 million square feet and can hold up to 820,000 worshipers, but this latest renovation will increase it to 4.3 million square feet, allowing it to accommodate up to 2.2 million at a time.
PREVIOUS MECCA TRAGEDIES
1987: 402 people killed and almost 650 wounded in clashes between Iranian pilgrims and Saudi authorites
1989: Two bombs kill one pilgrim and injure 16 others.
1990: 1,426 pilgrims killed in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel
1994: 270 pilgrims killed during a stampede at a stoning ritual
1997: More than 340 people killed and 1,500 injured when fire rips through a tented city
1998: 180 pilgrims trampled to death after several people fell off an overpass
2001: 35 people killed in a stampede
2004: Approximately 250 people were killed during a stampede at a stoning ceremony
2006: At least 350 pilgrims killed following a stampede at a stoning ceremony