Scorching temps claims over 550 Hajj pilgrims in Mecca

Image courtesy of Rafiq Maqbool/AP Photo

Around 550 pilgrims have lost their lives to the intense heat during this year’s Hajj, highlighting the challenging nature of the pilgrimage, where scorching summer temperatures climbed above 50 degrees Celcius.

Among the deceased, 323 were Egyptians, with most succumbing to heat-related conditions, according to two Arab diplomats coordinating their countries’ responses, as reported by AFP.

A diplomat noted that one Egyptian individual sustained fatal injuries during a minor crowd crush, referencing figures sourced from the hospital morgue in the Al-Muaisem neighbourhood of Mecca, which is one of Mecca’s largest. The current official death toll according to the morgue is listed at 550.

The diplomats also reported that at least 60 Jordanians have died, up from the previously reported 41 as of Tuesday. These new fatalities bring the total number reported by various countries to 577.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Egypt’s foreign ministry announced it was working with Saudi authorities to search for Egyptians missing during the Hajj. While the ministry acknowledged ‘a certain number of deaths’ it did not specify if Egyptians were among them.

Saudi authorities have treated over 2,000 pilgrims for heat stress but have not updated this figure since Sunday and have not provided information on fatalities.

Rising temperatures

The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is obligatory for all Muslims with the means to perform it at least once in their lifetime. A recent Saudi study indicated that the pilgrimage is increasingly impacted by climate change, with temperatures in the area rising by 0.4°C each decade. According to the Saudi National Meteorology Centre, temperatures at the Grand Mosque in Mecca reached 51.8°C this past Monday.

Pilgrims were observed pouring water over their heads while volunteers distributed cold drinks and quickly melting chocolate ice cream to help them stay cool. Saudi officials advised pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water, and avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day.

However, many Hajj rituals, such as the prayers on Mount Arafat on Saturday, require prolonged outdoor exposure.

Some pilgrims reported seeing motionless bodies along the roadside and described ambulance services as overwhelmed at times. According to Saudi authorities, roughly 1.8 million pilgrims participated in this year’s Hajj, with 1.6 million coming from abroad.

Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt the Hajj without official visas to save money, a dangerous practice as these unregistered pilgrims cannot access the air-conditioned facilities provided by Saudi authorities along the Hajj route.

One diplomat noted that the high number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims contributed to the high Egyptian death toll.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials reported clearing hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca before the Hajj. Other countries reporting deaths during this year’s pilgrimage include Indonesia, Iran, and Senegal, though most have not specified how many were heat-related, reported The Guardian.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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