550 Hajj Pilgrims Die Amid Scorching Heat in Mecca, Temperatures Reach 51 Degrees

Diplomats reported on Tuesday that at least 550 pilgrims have died during the Hajj pilgrimage, highlighting the grueling conditions as temperatures soared this year. Among the deceased, 323 were Egyptians, most succumbing to heat-related illnesses, according to two Arab diplomats coordinating their countries’ responses with AFP.

“All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat,” one diplomat stated, except for one fatality resulting from a minor crowd crush. The hospital morgue in Al-Muaisem, Mecca confirmed these figures. Additionally, 60 Jordanians were reported dead, up from an earlier official tally of 41.

The overall death toll reported by multiple countries now stands at 577, according to an AFP tally, with 550 bodies in the Al-Muaisem morgue, one of the largest in Mecca. The Hajj pilgrimage, a mandatory religious duty for Muslims, is increasingly impacted by climate change, with a recent Saudi study noting temperatures in ritual areas rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade.

The National Meteorology Center reported that temperatures at the Grand Mosque in Mecca reached 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) on Monday. Earlier, Egypt’s foreign ministry confirmed collaboration with Saudi authorities in search operations for missing Egyptians, without specifying if any were among the deceased.

Saudi authorities have treated over 2,000 pilgrims for heat stress but have not updated fatality figures since Sunday. Last year, at least 240 pilgrims died, mostly Indonesians. In Mina, near Mecca, AFP journalists observed pilgrims pouring water over their heads and receiving cold drinks and ice cream to combat the heat.

Despite advice to use umbrellas and stay hydrated, many Hajj rituals require prolonged outdoor activity. Some pilgrims reported seeing bodies on the roadside and overwhelmed ambulance services.

Approximately 1.8 million pilgrims participated in this year’s Hajj, with 1.6 million from abroad. However, tens of thousands attempt the pilgrimage through irregular channels, unable to afford official visas. These unregistered pilgrims often lack access to air-conditioned facilities, increasing their risk.

An Egyptian official overseeing the country’s Hajj mission noted that the unregistered pilgrims caused chaos in camps, leading to a collapse of services and prolonged exposure to extreme heat.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials cleared hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca. Other countries, including Indonesia, Iran, and Senegal, have also reported deaths, though most have not specified if they were heat-related.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel stated that health plans for the Hajj had been successfully implemented, preventing major disease outbreaks. The health officials provided over 5,800 virtual consultations, primarily for heat-related illnesses, ensuring prompt interventions.

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