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Mecca sees over 550 deaths of hajj pilgrims as temperatures rise beyond 50°C.

Mecca deaths

The fact that at least 550 pilgrims have perished on the hajj highlights how difficult the journey is, which took place in intense heat this year as well.

According to the two Arab diplomats coordinating their countries’ responses, at least 323 Egyptians lost their lives, the most of them from heat-related ailments, AFP reported.

One of the diplomats stated, “All of them [the Egyptians] died because of heat,” with the exception of one who died from injuries he received in a small crowd crush. He added that the total number of deaths came from the hospital morgue in the Al-Muaisem neighborhood of Mecca.

The diplomats reported that at least 60 Jordanians had passed away, surpassing the official count of 41 that Amman had earlier on Tuesday announced.

An AFP count puts the number of deaths recorded by various countries up to 577 with the addition of these latest deaths.

According to the diplomats, there were 550 people overall at the largest morgue in Mecca, located at Al-Muaisem.

Egypt’s foreign ministry had earlier on Tuesday said that Cairo was working with Saudi authorities to look for Egyptians who had vanished during the hajj.

The Saudi authorities have stated that they are treating over 2,000 pilgrims who are experiencing heat exhaustion; however, they have not updated this number since Sunday and have not disclosed any information regarding fatalities.

Last year, at least 240 pilgrims—mostly from Indonesia—were reported deceased by several nations.

One of the five pillars of Islam is the hajj, which every Muslim who has the means to do so must perform at least once.

According to a Saudi study released last month, which found that temperatures in the region where rituals are carried out are rising by 0.4C (0.72F) every decade, the pilgrimage is becoming more and more impacted by climate disruption.
The Saudi National Meteorological Center reported that on Monday, temperatures in the Grand Mosque in Mecca reached 51.8C.

Reporters from AFP observed pilgrims in Mina, outside of Mecca, on Monday dousing themselves with water bottles while volunteers provided them with chilled beverages and chocolate ice cream that melted quickly to keep them cool.

Saudi officials had advised pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.

But many of the hajj rituals, including the prayers on Mount Arafat which took place on Saturday, involve being outdoors for hours in the daytime.

Some pilgrims described seeing motionless bodies on the roadside and ambulance services that appeared overwhelmed at times.

About 1.8 million pilgrims took part in the hajj this year, 1.6 million of them from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.

Each year tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to perform the hajj without securing official hajj visas in order to save money, a more dangerous undertaking because these off-the-books pilgrims cannot access air-conditioned facilities provided by Saudi authorities along the hajj route.

One of the diplomats who spoke to AFP on Tuesday said that the Egyptian death toll was “absolutely” boosted by a large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials said they had cleared hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca before the hajj.

Other countries to report deaths during the hajj this year include Indonesia, Iran and Senegal.

Most countries have not specified how many deaths were heat-related.

Hosting the hajj is a source of prestige for the Saudi royal family, and King Salman’s title includes “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in the cities of Mecca and Medina.

The Saudi health minister, Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel, said on Tuesday that health plans for the hajj had “been successfully carried out”, preventing major outbreaks of disease and other public health threats, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

A virtual hospital “provided virtual consultations to over 5,800 pilgrims, primarily for heat-related illnesses, enabling prompt intervention and mitigating the potential for a surge in cases”, SPA said.

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