Aerial images show public spaces, holy sites emptied by virus epidemic

A pilgrim, who arrived before Saudi Arabia halted travel, rests on a prayer mat at Mecca’s Grand Mosque. (AP pic)

BEIJING: Empty public squares, a ghostly train station and deserted holy sites – a series of striking satellite images have revealed the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on some of the world’s busiest spaces.

The aerial photographs, released by Colorado-based space technology firm Maxar, show normally bustling spots from Mecca to Beijing thinned of people.

One image shows a handful of pilgrims circling the granite Kaaba at Mecca’s Grand Mosque – a sacred site usually thronged with worshippers from every corner of the Muslim world.

Saudi Arabian authorities have suspended the year-round “umrah” pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest place, in a bid to stop the spread of the virus which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide.

Workers sterilise the ground in front of the Kaaba. (AP pic)

An image above the Hazrat Masumeh Shrine in Qom shows one of Iran’s most hallowed places virtually empty as its famed golden dome shimmers in the sunlight.

Streets and courtyards around the shrine are similarly vacant.

Photos above Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the global outbreak – show dozens of trains parked up at the city’s deserted Dongdamen Station.

With the city under lockdown and virtually cut off from the outside world since Jan 23, the usually bustling station has been transformed into a make-shift depot.

Elsewhere, Tiananmen square lives up to its name as the Gate of Heavenly Peace, with only a couple of dozen cars passing by and no pedestrians to be seen.