Number of heat-related deaths during pilgrimage to Mecca continues to rise

Number of heat-related deaths during pilgrimage to Mecca continues to rise
Number of heat-related deaths during pilgrimage to Mecca continues to rise

Pilgrimages in scorching heat

According to the Tunisian authorities, at least 49 citizens died during the pilgrimage in Mecca. In Saudi Arabia, a high-ranking government official admitted the deaths of over 500 people.

The government representative told the AFP news agency on Friday that 577 deaths were recorded on two days of the Hajj alone. He was referring to the previous Saturday, when the pilgrims climbed Mount Arafat, and the Sunday with the stoning of the devil. It was the first statement by the Saudi Arabian government on the hundreds of deaths.

  • Also read: More than 1,000 heat-related deaths during Hajj in Mecca

The government representative in Riyadh stressed, however, that there had been no failure on the part of the state. “The state did not fail, but there was a misjudgment on the part of the people who did not correctly assess the risks,” he stressed. There had been “difficult weather conditions and very harsh temperatures.” He also admitted that the number of 577 fatalities was only provisional and did not cover the entire period of the multi-day pilgrimage.

According to an AFP count, at least 1,126 people died during the pilgrimage in temperatures of up to 51.8 degrees. Unofficially registered pilgrims accounted for more than half of the deaths, and more than half of the fatalities came from Egypt. The figures come from official statements or from diplomats of the respective countries.

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No access to cool rooms

Unregistered pilgrims were particularly exposed to the extreme heat. Without a license, they were denied access to cooled rooms set up by the Saudi authorities for the 1.8 million approved pilgrims to recover from hours of walking and praying in the open air.

An official pilgrimage to Mecca is practically unaffordable for many Muslim believers. However, if they travel irregularly – which can save thousands of dollars – the pilgrims risk arrest and deportation. Before this year’s Hajj, the authorities said they had removed over 300,000 irregular pilgrims from Mecca. According to the government representative, many were later allowed to enter.

Around 400,000 unregistered pilgrims

“We can estimate the number of unregistered pilgrims at around 400,000,” he said. Most of them came from a specific country, he added, apparently with Egypt in mind. According to Arab diplomats, Egypt alone has suffered 658 deaths, 630 of whom were unregistered pilgrims.

Many other countries have also reported deaths. In Tunisia, the Minister of Religion was dismissed on Friday after the death of 49 Tunisian pilgrims, the presidential office announced in a statement on the online network Facebook without providing further details. On Friday, the US State Department also announced the death of “several” US citizens during the Hajj, without providing further details.

The five-day major event in Saudi Arabia is one of the five pillars of Islam. The pilgrimage should be undertaken by every healthy Muslim who can afford it at least once in their life. This year’s Hajj ended on Wednesday.

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