Families plead for news as Hajj heatwave claims over 900 lives

Deaths among Egyptians had risen to at least 600, with the total reported deaths now at 922

News Desk June 20, 2024

Family and friends searched desperately for missing Hajj pilgrims on Wednesday, as the death toll from the pilgrimage, held in extreme heat, surpassed 900.

Temperatures in Mecca reached 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) on Monday, causing widespread fatalities among the 1.8 million participants, many of whom were elderly and frail.

An Arab diplomat reported that deaths among Egyptians had risen to at least 600, with the total reported deaths now at 922. Egyptian officials in Saudi Arabia have received 1,400 reports of missing pilgrims.

A second Arab diplomat reported that Jordanian officials were searching for 20 missing pilgrims, while 80 initially reported missing were found in hospitals. An Asian diplomat mentioned around 68 dead from India, with more still missing.

One missing pilgrim Mabrouka bint Salem Shushana from Tunisia was unregistered and lacked access to air-conditioned facilities. Her husband, Mohammed, has been searching hospitals with no success.

"She's an old lady, tired and feeling extremely hot with no place to sleep," he said. "I searched all the hospitals but still have no clue about her whereabouts."

Social media platforms like Facebook have been flooded with pictures of the missing and requests for information. Among those searching are family and friends of Ghada Mahmoud Ahmed Dawood, an Egyptian pilgrim unaccounted for since Saturday.

"I received a call from her daughter in Egypt, begging me to post on Facebook to help track her or find her," said a family friend in Saudi Arabia, who spoke anonymously to avoid conflict with authorities. "The good news is that she's not on the list of the dead, giving us hope she's still alive."

Hajj has coincided with the Saudi summer in recent years, exacerbating the heat risks. Fatalities have been confirmed in several countries, including Jordan, Indonesia, and Iran.

Saudi Arabia has not released official death figures but reported over 2,700 cases of heat exhaustion. Many pilgrims attempt the Hajj through unofficial channels to avoid costly permits, a trend that has increased since the introduction of a general tourism visa in 2019.

Even those with official permits, like 70-year-old Houria Ahmad Abdallah Sharif from Egypt, are at risk; she has been missing since Saturday.

Authorities continue to search for the missing, hoping to locate survivors amid the deadly heatwave.


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