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Over 600 Hajj Pilgrims Die in Mecca Amid Extreme Heat

This year’s Hajj was conducted in temperatures exceeding 50°C (122°F), with a peak of 51.8°C recorded at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on June 17, 2024. The extreme heat was a major contributing factor to the deaths of at least 600 pilgrims, with over 320 of them being Egyptian nationals. Reports say that these individuals died mainly due to heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke and dehydration.

Over 600 Hajj Pilgrims Die in Mecca Amid Extreme Heat

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The Saudi National Meteorology Center reported that the severe heat wave affected the pilgrims’ health and well-being.

Saudi health authorities treated over 2,000 cases of heat stress among the pilgrims. The number of fatalities and heat-related illnesses shows the impact of extreme temperatures on the Hajj experience.

Among the deceased, Egyptians accounted for the highest number of casualties. Out of the 550 reported deaths, 323 were Egyptians including one individual who died due to injuries sustained in a minor crowd crush.

The Egyptian foreign ministry is working closely with Saudi authorities to locate and identify missing citizens.

Fatalities were also reported among other nationalities including 60 Jordanians. The death toll continues to rise as more countries report their respective figures.

Other affected nations include Indonesia, Iran and Senegal, shows the impact of the heat wave on pilgrims from various regions.

The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam requires Muslims to perform a series of rituals over a span of five days including prayers on Mount Arafat and the symbolic stoning of the devil.

Many of these rituals take place outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, exposing pilgrims to severe heat and increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

Despite the Saudi government’s efforts to manage crowds and ensure safety, the sheer number of pilgrims, estimated at 1.8 million this year.

Unregistered pilgrims, who lack access to air-conditioned facilities are particularly vulnerable to the harsh conditions.

Pilgrims, many of whom are elderly and from low-income countries often arrive with preexisting health conditions. The mass gathering during the Hajj increases the risk of communicable diseases.

The Saudi Ministry of Health provided over 5,800 virtual consultations, primarily for heat-related illnesses.

Saudi officials advised pilgrims to take precautions such as using umbrellas, staying hydrated and avoiding direct sun exposure during peak hours.

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A Saudi study showed that temperatures in the region are rising by approximately 0.4°C per decade. This trend suggests that future Hajj pilgrimages may face even harsher conditions.

According to a 2019 study by MIT experts, the Hajj will likely experience temperatures above the “extreme danger threshold” in the coming decades.

As the Islamic lunar calendar shifts the timing of the Hajj earlier each year, the pilgrimage will eventually fall in cooler months, but until then, pilgrims will continue to face extreme heat.

The death toll from this year’s Hajj pilgrimage has reached 645, as per an AFP tally, with fatalities reported among various nationalities. Among these, 68 were Indian nationals confirmed by a Saudi diplomat who preferred to remain anonymous.

This year’s Hajj coincided with one of the hottest months in Saudi Arabia with temperatures soaring up to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many of the dead were elderly or had pre-existing health conditions, making them particularly susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

The Saudi government reported more than 2,700 cases of heat exhaustion on a single day.

The fatalities included pilgrims from various countries, 323 Egyptians, 60 Jordanians, 35 Tunisians, 11 Iranians and more from Indonesia, Senegal, Tunisia and Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

Each country’s authorities have reported reasons for the deaths, with heatstroke being a common factor among many cases.

The Indian diplomat in Saudi Arabia said that along with the confirmed deaths, several Indian pilgrims are still missing. The Indian government is actively working with Saudi authorities to account for all its pilgrims and provide support to the affected families.

Despite efforts to provide shade, hydration and medical support, the extreme weather overwhelmed the preventive measures in place.

Saudi authorities deployed 1,600 personnel with medical units specifically for heatstroke and 30 response teams along with 5,000 health and first aid volunteers.

The Hajj has historically been associated with numerous incidents including stampedes and disease outbreaks. The incident occurred in 2015, when a stampede in Mina resulted in over 2,400 deaths.

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