HomeSaudi ArabiaTragic Heatwave at Hajj: Over 1,000 Pilgrims Die Amidst Record Temperatures

Tragic Heatwave at Hajj: Over 1,000 Pilgrims Die Amidst Record Temperatures

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The death toll from this year’s Hajj has surpassed 1,000, with the majority of fatalities being unregistered worshippers who performed the pilgrimage in the searing Saudi Arabian heat.

The pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, witnessed a tragic turn as extreme temperatures claimed the lives of 1,081 pilgrims from ten countries.

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On Thursday, reports revealed that among the deceased were 658 Egyptians, with 630 being unregistered pilgrims.

An Arab diplomat disclosed that these unregistered pilgrims were particularly vulnerable as they lacked access to air-conditioned spaces designated for the 1.8 million authorized worshippers.

The Hajj, determined by the lunar Islamic calendar, coincided with the blistering Saudi summer this year. The National Meteorological Center reported temperatures soaring to 51.8°C (125°F) at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

A recent Saudi study highlighted a worrying trend, showing a 0.4°C increase in temperatures per decade in the region. Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to join the Hajj through irregular channels due to the prohibitive costs of official permits.

Despite Saudi authorities removing hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca this month, many still managed to participate in the main rites that commenced last Friday. This group faced heightened risks, particularly during the day-long outdoor prayers on Arafat day, which marked the climax of the Hajj.

“People were tired after being chased by security forces before Arafat day. They were exhausted,” an Arab diplomat explained, noting that heat-related complications such as high blood pressure were the primary causes of death among Egyptian pilgrims.

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The Egyptian foreign ministry stated that officials were visiting hospitals to aid in medical care and information retrieval for their pilgrims.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has directed a crisis cell led by the prime minister to address the situation. Sisi emphasized the need for immediate coordination with Saudi authorities to expedite the process of receiving the bodies of the deceased and notifying their families.

In addition to Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia have also confirmed additional deaths. A Pakistani diplomat reported 58 deaths out of approximately 150,000 pilgrims, attributing the fatalities to natural causes given the extreme weather conditions.

Indonesia’s religious affairs ministry increased its death toll to 183 out of 240,000 pilgrims, compared to 313 deaths last year.

Other countries, including Malaysia, India, Jordan, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, Sudan, and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, have also reported fatalities, though many have not specified the causes. Friends and relatives continue to search for missing pilgrims, scouring hospitals and pleading for information online.

Saudi authorities have begun the burial process for deceased pilgrims, adhering to their established protocols. A diplomat noted, “The Saudi authorities do the burial.

They have their own system, so we just follow that,” while another diplomat highlighted the challenges in notifying families ahead of time, especially with the high number of Egyptian casualties.

Saudi Arabia has not disclosed an official death toll but reported over 2,700 cases of “heat exhaustion” on Sunday alone. Last year, over 300 deaths were reported during the Hajj, primarily among Indonesian pilgrims.

The timing of the Hajj shifts approximately 11 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar, meaning next year’s pilgrimage will occur in more relaxed conditions in early June.

However, a 2019 study in Geophysical Research Letters warned that due to the climate crisis, heat stress for Hajj pilgrims would reach “extreme danger thresholds” from 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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