One man drowned and dramatic bolts of lightning struck Makkah as the city was lashed by thunderstorms overnight on Tuesday and early on Wednesday.
Mohammed Al-Twaim, a teacher at Mina Elementary School, lost his life trying to escape from his car after it was engulfed by floodwater.
As pilgrims tried to circumambulate the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, lightning hit the landmark Fairmont Makkah Clock Royal Tower hotel, illuminating the night sky. The storm brought gale force winds exceeding 80 kph and 45 millimetres of rain within 24 hours, said National Center for Meteorology spokesman Hussein Al-Qahtani.
Pilgrims outside the mosque were toppled over by the wind, which sent crowd barriers sliding across the rain-slicked floor. “The scene was very scary,” said Makkah resident Mohammed, who was grocery shopping at the height of the storm. “Everything happened within a few minutes, when it started raining in a crazy way.”
Another resident, Abu Mayyada, was out buying cigarettes and petrol when “everything went black in front of me” as the worst of the storm hit, he said. “Suddenly I lost control over the vehicle. I couldn’t see anything so I started listening to the Qur’an on the radio. I didn’t understand what was happening.”
The Makkah governorate said schools would remain closed, with classes conducted on an e-learning platform “in the interest of everyone’s safety.”
The meteorology center warned of further storms in the Makkah region and elsewhere in western Saudi Arabia.
Source: Arab News