Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Saudi Arabia Hajj deaths: Heatwave calamity for Hajj pilgrims- Saudi Arabia announces 1,301 deaths

Saudi Arabia Hajj deaths Heatwave calamity for Hajj pilgrims- SaudiSaudi Arabia Hajj deaths

Saudi Arabia Hajj deaths: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that more than 1,300 deaths occurred during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, primarily due to heat stress and unauthorized trips, which accounted for over 80% of the fatalities.

In its initial official report, the Saudi government stated, “The healthcare system dealt with numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still receiving treatment. Unfortunately, the number of deaths reached 1,301.”

What factors contribute to the deaths during the Hajj pilgrimage?

According to the Saudi government’s statement, 83% of the deceased were pilgrims who embarked on the journey without proper authorization, enduring long walks under direct sunlight without adequate shelter or comfort.

The Saudi government also acknowledged that among the deceased were elderly and chronically ill individuals, with all families now identified.

Record-breaking heat, reaching 52 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit) in Mecca, has been cited as a significant factor contributing to the numerous deaths and injuries reported this year. Compounding these challenges are unauthorized pilgrimages where individuals lack the required licenses, each costing thousands of US dollars, to legally access Mecca. These pilgrims typically travel without organized amenities such as air-conditioned buses and adequate supplies of water and food.

The Saudi government stated that the unauthorized nature of many trips delayed the official death toll announcement and complicated the identification process. Despite these initial challenges, the statement assured that proper procedures were followed for identification, burial, and the issuance of death certificates.

Eyewitness testimonies of the tragic events during the Hajj pilgrimage

Witness accounts reported scenes where pilgrims lost consciousness and passed bodies covered in white cloth amidst severe conditions.

On the journey back, I witnessed many pilgrims who had passed away. Every few hundred meters, there was a body lying covered with an ihram cloth,” recounted Ahmed, a 44-year-old from Indonesia, speaking to CNN.

He added that whenever water was distributed by residents or specific groups, pilgrims would rush to it immediately. Ahmed noted the absence of health workers or ambulances along the road.

Egypt pushes down on ‘illegal’ Hajj journeys as deaths rise

Meanwhile, Egypt has moved to crack down on illegal pilgrimages by announcing plans to revoke licenses from 16 Hajj tourism companies involved in organizing unauthorized trips to Mecca. This decision follows concerns that a substantial number of Egyptians may have perished, with reports indicating a death toll higher than officially acknowledged.

The Egyptian government’s actions were prompted by revelations during a cabinet meeting about irregularities in how certain tourism operators conducted their operations, including issuing incorrect visas and failing to provide adequate accommodations and protection from the extreme heat.

Officially, the death toll among Egyptians stands at 31. However, according to Reuters and other sources, the actual toll could be significantly higher, with estimates suggesting between 500 to 600 fatalities during the pilgrimage.

Obstacles and sympathies

During the meeting, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly expressed condolences to the affected families and pledged necessary support in response to the tragic events during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage. The pilgrimage, which operates under a quota system with Saudi Arabia issuing 1.8 million licenses annually, faced additional challenges due to exceptionally high temperatures this year.

The Islamic lunar calendar determines the Hajj’s scheduling, which this year coincides with extremely hot temperatures in Saudi Arabia—they can reach as high as 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

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Worshippers endure lengthy hours of walking in the sweltering heat of the day as they perform a number of rites in and around the holy city of Mecca throughout the trip.

The final death toll from this year’s Hajj pilgrimage may still rise, as governments have so far accounted for pilgrims who registered and traveled to Mecca under their respective country quotas.

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