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35 Pakistanis among over 900 died during Haj in Saudi Arabia

Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs said on Wednesday that Haj was challenging this year due to extreme heat and harsh weather conditions, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees Centigrade.
Last Updated : 20 June 2024, 12:29 IST

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Islamabad: At least 35 Pakistanis were among more than 900 people from around the world who died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia marked by searing heat, the government has confirmed.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs said on Wednesday that Hajj was challenging this year due to extreme heat and harsh weather conditions, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees Centigrade.

Saudi state TV said temperatures on Monday rose as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius at the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The Director General of Pakistan’s Hajj Mission, Abdul Wahab Soomro, said on Wednesday that as of June 18, a total of 35 Pakistani casualties had been reported.

This includes 20 in Makkah, six in Madina, four in Mina, three in Arafat and two in Muzdalifah, the Dawn newspaper quoted Soomro as saying.

He said the Saudi government had set up a system for burials in Haramain, and arrangements were made to send the body of any Pakistani pilgrim back to the home country if the heirs demanded so.

Saudi Arabia has not officially provided information on fatalities, though it reported more than 2,700 cases of “heat exhaustion” on Sunday alone.

Soomro also asked the general public not to heed social media posts about the hardships faced by the pilgrims, calling them “inauthentic”.

In a statement issued in Islamabad, Soomro referred to a video clip circulating on social media that showed bodies lying on footpaths and people appealing to officials — also seen in the video — to put the bodies into the ambulances parked nearby.

“It has come to our attention that some videos are circulating on social media websites in which pilgrims are shown, and no one is coming to help [them]; these videos are baseless because their authenticity could not be verified, and their date or year could not be determined," he said.

He pointed out that verified information had to come from the Saudi government, which was later verified by the mission.

While deaths among pilgrims are not uncommon (there were more than 200 last year), this year’s gathering is being held amid particularly high temperatures.

Hajj season changes every year according to the Islamic calendar, and this year, it fell in June, one of the hottest months in the kingdom.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia advised pilgrims against performing the “stoning of the devil” ritual between certain hours due to high temperatures.

According to the Dawn newspaper, more than 900 deaths were reported this year. Several Indians were also among the dead.

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Published 20 June 2024, 12:29 IST

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