July 19, 2024

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More than 550 pilgrims died in Mecca due to extreme heat approaching 52 degrees

More than 550 pilgrims died in Mecca due to extreme heat approaching 52 degrees

These new deaths bring the total number of deaths reported by several countries so far to 577, according to an Agence France-Presse count.

Jerusalem:

Diplomats said on Tuesday that at least 550 pilgrims had died during the Hajj, highlighting the grueling nature of the pilgrimage, which again took place in sweltering temperatures this year.

Two Arab diplomats coordinating their countries’ responses told AFP that at least 323 of those who died were Egyptians, most of whom died from heat-related illnesses.

“All of them (Egyptians) died because of the heat,” one of the diplomats said, except for one who was mortally wounded during a simple stampede among a crowd of people, adding that the total number came from the hospital morgue in the Al-Muaisem neighborhood in Mecca.

Diplomats said at least 60 Jordanians were also killed, up from the official toll announced by Amman earlier on Tuesday, which was 41 dead.

These new deaths bring the total number of deaths reported by several countries so far to 577, according to an Agence France-Presse count.

The diplomats said that the total number of bodies in the Al-Muaisem morgue, one of the largest morgues in Mecca, reached 550 bodies.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims who have the means must perform it at least once.

The Hajj is increasingly affected by climate change, according to a Saudi study published last month, which said temperatures in the region where the ritual is held are rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) every decade.

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The Saudi National Meteorological Center said temperatures reached 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on Monday.

Heat stress

Earlier on Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that Cairo is cooperating with Saudi authorities in searches for Egyptians who went missing during the Hajj season.

While a ministry statement stated that there had been “a certain number of deaths,” it did not specify whether Egyptians were among them.

Saudi authorities reported treating more than 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat exhaustion, but they have not updated that number since Sunday and have not provided information on deaths.

Various countries reported the deaths of at least 240 pilgrims last year, most of them Indonesians.

AFP journalists in Mina outside Mecca on Monday saw pilgrims pouring water bottles over their heads while volunteers handed out cold drinks and instant chocolate ice cream to help them stay cool.

Saudi officials advised pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water, and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.

But many Hajj rituals, including prayers on Mount Arafat held on Saturday, involve being outdoors for hours during the day.

Some pilgrims described seeing motionless bodies on the side of the road, and ambulance services seemed overwhelmed at times.

About 1.8 million pilgrims participated in the Hajj rituals this year, including 1.6 million from abroad, according to the Saudi authorities.

Unregistered pilgrims

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to perform the Hajj through irregular channels because they cannot afford the often expensive procedures for obtaining official Hajj visas.

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This puts these unregistered pilgrims at risk because they cannot access the air-conditioned facilities provided by the Saudi authorities along the Hajj route.

One diplomat who spoke to AFP on Tuesday said the Egyptian death toll had “certainly” risen due to the large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims.

An Egyptian official supervising the Hajj delegation in the country said, “The irregular pilgrims caused great chaos in the Egyptian pilgrims’ camps, which led to the collapse of services.”

“The pilgrims have been without food, water or air conditioning for a long time.”

They died “from the heat because most people had nowhere” to take shelter.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials said they had evacuated hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca before performing the Hajj.

Other countries that reported deaths during this year’s Hajj season include Indonesia, Iran and Senegal.

Most countries did not specify the number of heat-related deaths.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel said on Tuesday that health plans for the Hajj were “successfully implemented,” preventing major disease outbreaks and other threats to public health, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi Press Agency said that health officials “provided virtual consultations to more than 5,800 pilgrims, especially regarding heat-related illnesses, allowing immediate intervention and mitigating the possibility of an increase in cases.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)