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More than 550 pilgrims died this year during Hajj due to scorching temperatures: Report

Currently, over 2,000 pilgrims affected by heat exhaustion are being treated by Saudi authorities, officials have said.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 14:10 IST

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An alarming rise in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, along with other ill-effects of climate change have plagued the world at large in recent years. The vice-grip of extreme heat has now affected the pilgrims of Hajj -the annual Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca.

According to reports by news agency AFP, Saudi diplomats have revealed that more than 550 pilgrims lost their lives while doing the hajj this year due to heat-related issues, highlighting the arduous nature of the journey, especially under this sweltering heat.

Among the deceased, at least 323 were Egyptians. One of the diplomats stated, "All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat" - barring one, who died from injuries sustained in a minor stampede incident due to overcrowding. Egypt's foreign ministry had earlier mentioned that they are in touch with Saudi authorities to look for Egyptians who disappeared en route to Mecca. The overall death toll was derived from the Al-Muaisem hospital morgue in Mecca.

Apart from the Egyptians, about 60 Jordanians have also died during this year's Hajj.

As per data released by concerned Saudi authorities last month, Hajj is becoming more and more impacted by climate change, with temperatures in the pilgrimage area rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius every ten years. The Saudi National Meteorological Center said that temperatures around the Grand Mosque area in Mecca reached a whopping 51.8 degrees Celsius on June 17.

Currently, over 2,000 pilgrims affected by heat exhaustion are being treated by Saudi authorities, officials have said. However, neither have they updated this tally, nor disclosed any information regarding fatalities since Sunday, June 16.

The death toll during Hajj stood at around 240 (mostly from Indonesia) the previous year.

Pilgrims in Mina, outside of Mecca, were seen dousing themselves with water from their bottles, as volunteers provided them with chilled beverages and fast-melting chocolate ice cream to help them cope with the scorching heat.

The authorities have set out advisory guidelines to the pilgrims, urging them to carry umbrellas, stay hydrated, and avoid staying under the sun during the hottest parts of the day.

Many pilgrims have also claimed to have spotted lifeless bodies lying on the side of the road on their way to the Grand Mosque; ambulance services struggled to handle the unprecedented amount of emergency situations, they said.

An estimated 1.8 million pilgrims performed the Hajj this year, with 1.6 million coming from outside Saudi. A huge number of pilgrims seek to complete the Hajj through unofficial means every year because they are unable to afford the heavy expenses required to obtain official Hajj visas.

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Published 19 June 2024, 14:10 IST

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