At least 1,301 people die in extreme heat during Mecca Hajj

Prospective pilgrims visit the Mount of Mercy (Mount Arafat) as Muslims continue their pilgrimage to perform the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Issam Rimavi/Anatolu via Getty Images

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According to Saudi Arabia, at least 1,301 people have died due to extreme heat during the Haj pilgrimage.

Most of the pilgrims are exposed to the burning elements as they do not have permits.

„Sadly, the death toll reached 1,301, 83% of whom were not authorized to perform Hajj and walked long distances under direct sunlight without adequate shelter or comfort,” Saudi Press Agency AFP reported.

Arab diplomats said 658 of the dead were Egyptians, of whom 630 were not registered as pilgrims.

„The rise in temperature during the Hajj season was a big challenge this year,” he said Fahad al-Jalajel, Saudi Arabia’s health minister, The New York Times reported. „Unfortunately – and this pains us all – those without Hajj permission have walked a long way under the sun.”

Hajj is a spiritual journey that Muslims are encouraged to undertake at least once in their lifetime if they can. Nearly two million people perform the ritual annually, many of whom lose their lives due to heat stress, chronic illness or disease.

Last year, 774 pilgrims died on the pilgrimage From Indonesia Alone. It is not clear whether this year’s death toll was higher than normal, as Saudi Arabia does not provide those figures on a regular basis.

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According to Saudi officials, 1.8 million people made the pilgrimage this year, 1.6 of whom were from abroad, The Guardian reported.

During Hajj this year, the temperature in Mecca reached as high as 125.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Egypt’s cabinet attributed the deaths of a large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims during the journey to „arranging Hajj programs using individual visit visas, which prevent their holders from entering Mecca” through official channels.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli on Saturday ordered the revoking of the licenses of 16 tourism companies over illegal pilgrimages, according to the Cabinet. Madbouly referred the companies’ managers to the public prosecutor.

Permits for Hajj are issued to countries based on a quota system and then distributed to individuals through a lottery. However, the high costs of the Hajj – which can run into thousands of US dollars – leave many without permission, risking arrest and deportation.

The pilgrimage involves rituals in and around Mecca, including hours of walking in the hot sun.

Madbouly offered his „sincere condolences and sympathy”. Families of deceased pilgrims And CNN is committed to providing them with the support they need.

Ahmed, from Indonesia, said he saw many sick and dying from the unbearable heat and saw no health workers or ambulances on the roadside.

“On the way home, I saw many pilgrims die. About every few hundred meters a body was laid and covered with an ihrom [white fabric] cloth,” Ahmed told CNN. „Every time water is distributed from local residents or some group, it is immediately flooded with pilgrims.”

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The death toll could rise further as governments become aware of unregistered pilgrims from their countries.

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