ONE man drowned and dramatic bolts of lightning struck Makkah, Saudi Arabia, as the city was hit by thunderstorms overnight on Tuesday and early on Wednesday.
Arab News reported on Thursday that a teacher at Mina Elementary School, Mohammed Al-Twaim, died while trying to escape from his car after it was engulfed by floodwater.
The National Centre for Meteorology spokesman, Hussein Al-Qahtani, said: “As pilgrims tried to circumambulate the Kaaba at 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 millimeters of rain within 24 hours.”
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. Everything happened within a few minutes, when it started raining in a crazy way,” said a Makkah resident, Mohammed, who was grocery shopping at the height of the storm.
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 centre warned of further storms in the Makkah region and elsewhere in western Saudi Arabia.