Diplomats Say At Least 550 Pilgrims Died During Hajj, Mostly Egyptians

Diplomats claimed on Tuesday that at least 550 pilgrims perished during the hajj, highlighting the arduous nature of the trip, which took place in hot conditions this year.

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

“All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat” except for one who got fatal injuries during a brief crowd crush, one of the diplomats said, adding that the entire figure came from the hospital morgue in Mecca’s Al-Muaisem neighborhood.

At least 60 Jordanians perished, according to the diplomats, up from Amman’s official figure of 41 earlier on Tuesday.

The fresh deaths raise the total reported by numerous countries to 577, according to an AFP calculation.

According to diplomats, the number at Al-Muaisem morgue, one of Mecca’s largest, was 550.

Earlier on Tuesday, Egypt’s foreign ministry said it was working with Saudi officials to locate Egyptians who had gone missing during the hajj.

While the ministry stated that “a certain number of deaths” had occurred, it did not indicate if Egyptians were among them.

Saudi authorities have reported treating more than 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress, but have not updated the tally since Sunday and have not released any information on fatalities.

Last year, numerous countries reported the deaths of at least 240 pilgrims, the majority of whom were Indonesians.

Medics tend to a man as muslim pilgrims make their way towards Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Sun exposure

The hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars, and all Muslims who have the means must perform it at least once.

Climate change is progressively affecting the pilgrimage, according to a Saudi research published last month, which found that temperatures in the area where rites are done were rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius (0.72 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade.

On Monday, temperatures in Mecca’s Grand Mosque reached 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit), according to the Saudi national meteorology centre.

On Monday, AFP journalists in Mina, outside Mecca, watched pilgrims pouring bottles of water over their heads while volunteers handed out cold drinks and fast-melting chocolate ice cream to keep them cool.

Saudi officials had recommended pilgrims to bring umbrellas, drink plenty of water, and avoid the sun during the warmest hours of the day.

However, several hajj rites, like Saturday’s prayers on Mount Arafat, require spending hours outside during the day.

Some pilgrims reported witnessing unmoving bodies by the wayside and ambulance personnel that appeared overburdened at times.

According to Saudi authorities, over 1.8 million pilgrims performed the hajj this year, with 1.6 million coming from outside Saudi Arabia.

A Muslim pilgrim splashes water on his head to cools off at the base of Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. – More than 1.5 million Muslims will pray on Mount Arafat in soaring temperatures on June 15, in the high-point and most gruelling day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam that must be performed at least once by all Muslims who have the means to do so. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP)
A woman effected by the scorching heat rests as Muslim pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual as part of the hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, on June 16, 2024. (Photo by Fadel Senna / AFP)
Mist dispensers refreshen Muslim pilgrims at the base of Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Unregistered pilgrims

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to undertake the hajj without obtaining official hajj visas in order to save money, which is a riskier endeavor because these off-the-books pilgrims cannot access air-conditioned facilities supplied by Saudi authorities along the hajj route.

One of the ambassadors who spoke with AFP on Tuesday stated that the Egyptian death toll was “absolutely” inflated by a huge number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials announced that they had evacuated hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca ahead of the hajj.

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

The majority of countries have not mentioned how many deaths were caused by high temperatures.

Hosting the hajj provides prestige for the Saudi royal family, and King Salman’s title includes “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” at Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel stated on Tuesday that health measures for the hajj were “successfully carried out,” preventing major illness outbreaks and other public health hazards, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

A virtual medical center “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,” claimed the SPA.

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