A five-story hotel at a gate to the Grand Mosque in Islam's holiest city collapsed into a pile of rubble Thursday as millions of Muslims converged on the city for the annual hajj pilgrimage, security officials said. A pan-Arab television station said at least 23 people were dead and 60 were injured.
Rescue teams rushed to the site and were pulling bodies from beneath the wreckage. The security officials, who spoke anonymously because they are not allowed to talk to reporters, said most of the victims were Arabs from Egypt, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Al Ghaza Hotel, named for the district in which it is located, is about 60 meters (yards) from the Grand Mosque at the Bab al-Salam, or Gate of Peace. It is surrounded by local markets that stay open 24 hours during the pilgrimage, a major source of income in the holy city.
The courtyard of the Grand Mosque encloses the Kaaba, a large cubic stone structure that Muslims face during their five daily prayers.