More Than 1,300 Died During Hajj Pilgrimage: Saudi Arabia

Temperatures reached 117 degrees
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 19, 2024 10:55 AM CDT
Updated Jun 23, 2024 2:25 PM CDT
Amid Sweltering Temps, Hundreds Have Died in Mecca
Muslim pilgrims rest after casting stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
UPDATE Jun 23, 2024 2:25 PM CDT

Saudi Arabia on Sunday put the number of pilgrims who died in the scorching heat during this year's Hajj pilgrimage at more than 1,300. Health Minister Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel said on state TV that 83% of the fatalities were among unauthorized pilgrims who walked long distances in the sun, the AP reports. In Cairo, officials said the total includes more than 660 people from Egypt. Saudi Arabia expelled tens of thousands of unauthorized pilgrims, but many still reached the Mecca holy sites on foot. They had no hotels for refuge from the heat.

Jun 19, 2024 10:55 AM CDT

Hundreds of people died during this year's Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as the faithful faced intense high temperatures at Islamic holy sites, officials said Wednesday, as people tried to claim their loved ones' bodies. Saudi Arabia hasn't commented on the death toll amid the heat during the pilgrimage, required of every able Muslim once in their life, nor offered any causes for those who died. However, hundreds of people lined up at the Emergency Complex in Mecca's Al-Muaisem neighborhood, trying to get information about missing family members. One list suggested at least 550 people died during the five-day Hajj. A medic who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity said that the names listed appeared genuine. That medic and another official said they believed at least 600 bodies were at the facility.

Deaths aren't uncommon at the Hajj, which has drawn at times more than 2 million people to Saudi Arabia. There have been stampedes and epidemics throughout the pilgrimage's history. Each year, the Hajj draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from low-income nations, "many of whom have had little, if any, pre-Hajj health care," the Journal of Infection and Public Health reported in April. Communicable illnesses can spread among the gathered masses, many of whom saved their entire lives for their trips and can be elderly with preexisting health conditions. However, the number of dead this year suggests something caused the number of deaths to swell.

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Temperatures on Tuesday reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city. Onlookers saw some people faint while trying to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil. At the Grand Mosque in Mecca, temperatures reached 125 degrees on Monday, though pilgrims had already left for Mina. More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Hajj in 2024, including more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, and around 222,000 Saudi citizens and residents. Islam follows a lunar calendar, so the Hajj falls around 11 days earlier each year. In 2030, the Hajj will occur in April, and over the next several years it will fall in the winter, when temperatures are milder.

(More Hajj stories.)

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