Intense heat claimed lives of 550 pilgrims during Hajj, diplomats confirm

This year's hajj involved around 1.8 million participants, with 1.6 million from abroad

AFP June 19, 2024

On Tuesday, diplomats reported that at least 550 pilgrims died during the hajj, highlighting the challenging conditions of this year's pilgrimage marked by sweltering temperatures.

Most of the deaths, including 323 Egyptians, were attributed to heat-related illnesses, according to Arab diplomats coordinating responses with AFP.

One Egyptian pilgrim died due to injuries sustained in a minor crowd incident, while the overall tally was confirmed by the Al-Muaisem hospital morgue in Makkah.

Additionally, 60 Jordanian pilgrims were reported deceased, an increase from the earlier official count of 41 by Jordanian authorities. These new figures bring the total deaths reported by multiple countries to 577, as per AFP's count.

The pilgrimage, a fundamental practice in Islam, is increasingly impacted by climate change, with a recent Saudi study noting a rise in temperatures in the ritual areas.

On Monday, temperatures soared to 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, as reported by the Saudi national meteorology center.

Saudi efforts included treating over 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress, although specific updates on fatalities have not been provided since Sunday. Last year, various countries reported 240 deaths among pilgrims, predominantly Indonesians.

During the hajj rituals, such as prayers on Mount Arafat, pilgrims endured prolonged outdoor exposure despite Saudi advisories to use umbrellas, stay hydrated, and avoid the sun during peak hours.

Nonetheless, reports indicated challenges with overwhelmed ambulance services and instances of pilgrims succumbing to extreme heat along the route.

This year's hajj involved around 1.8 million participants, with 1.6 million from abroad. A significant number attempted the pilgrimage through unofficial channels due to the costs associated with official hajj visas, placing them at greater risk without access to Saudi-provided amenities.

An Egyptian official highlighted that many unregistered Egyptian pilgrims contributed to chaos in camps, resulting in inadequate services such as food, water, and cooling facilities, which likely exacerbated the death toll from heat-related causes.

Saudi authorities had earlier cleared hundreds of thousands of unauthorized pilgrims from Makkah ahead of the hajj. Countries including Indonesia, Iran, and Senegal also reported deaths during this year's pilgrimage, although specific details on heat-related fatalities were generally not disclosed.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel noted successful health plans during the hajj, which prevented major outbreaks of disease and managed over 5,800 virtual consultations primarily for heat-related illnesses, ensuring timely medical intervention.


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