Heat during the great pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia claims new victims

Arab diplomats announced Tuesday that at least 550 pilgrims died due to heat during the hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage in western Saudi Arabia. The majority are Egyptians.

This annual pilgrimage, from Friday to Sunday, took place this year again in the middle of summer in one of the hottest regions in the world, with temperatures reaching 51.8 degrees Celsius in Mecca, the holiest city of Islam.

At least 323 Egyptian pilgrims have died, mostly due to the heat, two Arab diplomats told AFP on Tuesday, on condition of anonymity.

All died from the heatexcept for one pilgrim who died after being injured during a crowd movement, one of the diplomats said, adding that the total figure came from the morgue of a hospital in the Al-Qaeda district. Muaisem of Mecca.

Diplomats said 550 bodies had been transported to the Al-Muaisem morgue, one of the largest in Mecca.

According to a report established by AFP, the Egyptian death figures bring to 577 the number of deaths during the hajj reported by different countries which, for the most part, do not specify the exact number of cases linked to heat.

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Pilgrims perform circumambulations around The Kaaba.

Photo: afp via getty images / –

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said earlier Tuesday that search operations for Egyptians missing during the hajj were in progress, evoking a number of deaths.

Saudi authorities said on Sunday they had treated more than 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress, without providing information on the deaths.

At least 60 Jordanians also died, diplomats said, while the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said earlier Tuesday it had issued 41 burial permits to bury worshipers in Mecca.

Authorities follow burial procedures for Jordanian pilgrims who died during hajj after suffering heatstrokeadded the ministry.

The hajj, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Muslims who can afford it must perform it at least once in their lives.

It is increasingly experiencing the effects of climate change, warned a Saudi study published in May found that temperatures at sites where rituals take place are rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius every ten years.

AFP journalists in Mina, near Mecca, on Monday saw pilgrims pouring bottles of water over their heads as volunteers distributed cold drinks and ice cream.

Saudi authorities have advised worshipers to use umbrellas, drink plenty of fluids and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.

But many rituals are done outside and in the middle of the day.

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Emergency services provide treatment to a man who collapsed in Mina, near Mecca, due to heatstroke.

Photo: Associated Press / Rafiq Maqbool

1.8 million pilgrims

Some pilgrims said they saw bodies lying on the side of the road and ambulances sometimes appearing overwhelmed.

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to participate in the hajj without official permission, denying them access to air-conditioned facilities.

According to one of the diplomats interviewed by AFP, the Egyptian death toll was considerably increased by the presence of pilgrims who did not have these authorizations.

These pilgrims have been without food, water and air conditioning for a long timesaid an Egyptian official overseeing the pilgrimage for his country.

They are dead due to the heat because most of them had nowhere where to shelter, according to him.

Several other countries have announced deaths this year, such as Tunisia, Indonesia, Iran and Senegal.

Around 1.8 million worshipers took part in the hajj this year, including 1.6 million from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.

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