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Riyadh, over 1,300 pilgrims dead during Hajj due to extreme heat

An ambulance. (Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime/TNS)
June 24, 2024

At least 1,301 pilgrims have died during the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam. This was reported by the authorities of Saudi Arabia, explaining that most of the victims were unauthorized pilgrims who walked long distances in intense heat. This was announced by the Spa, the Saudi news agency, recalling that this year’s pilgrimage took place during a heatwave, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 50°C. More than three-quarters of the deceased individuals did not have official permission to be there and were walking under the direct sunlight without adequate shelter, the Spa added. Some of those who died were elderly or had chronic illnesses, the agency further added.

Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel stated that efforts were made to increase awareness of the dangers of heat stress and how pilgrims could mitigate it. Health facilities treated nearly half a million pilgrims, including over 140,000 without permission, the minister said, adding that some were still in the hospital due to heat strokes. Saudi Arabia has been criticized for not doing more to make the Hajj safer, especially for unregistered pilgrims who do not have access to facilities like air-conditioned tents and official Hajj transportation. According to the Saudi national meteorological center, temperatures in Mecca rose to 51.8°C.

Indonesia stated that over 200 of its citizens lost their lives, while India recorded a death toll of 98 people. Pakistan, Malaysia, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Sudan, and the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan also confirmed deaths. Hajj is the annual pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. All financially and physically capable Muslims must complete the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. This year, about 1.8 million people participated in the Hajj, Saudi Arabia stated.

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