LifestyleSaudi Hajj tragedy: Heatwave claims 1,300 lives in Mecca

Saudi Hajj tragedy: Heatwave claims 1,300 lives in Mecca

Pilgrims took over Mecca for a few days.
Pilgrims took over Mecca for a few days.
Images source: © Getty Images | 2024 Anadolu
Ilona Raczyńska

24 June 2024 10:48

The Saudi Ministry of Health reported that during this year's Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, approximately 1,300 people died. Temperatures at that time reached nearly 50°C. Most of the victims succumbed to heatstroke.

According to the Saudi National Center for Meteorology, temperatures in Mecca during this year's pilgrimage ranged from 46°C to 49°C. Unfortunately, the consequences were tragic.

Pilgrims who travelled to Mecca have died

Official information indicates that among the fatalities are over 660 Egyptians, 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India, and several from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Malaysia. Journalists from the Associated Press reported that pilgrims were fainting due to the heat, especially on the second and third days of the pilgrimage. Some were vomiting and collapsing.

According to Cairo authorities, as many as 629 Egyptian pilgrims did not have permission from the Saudi authorities to perform the pilgrimage. Egypt has revoked the licences of 16 travel agencies that helped unauthorised pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia.

Each country is allocated a specific number of Hajj visas by the Saudi authorities. Performing the pilgrimage is one of the fundamental duties of Muslims, alongside the declaration of faith (Shahada), prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Families often go into debt or sell assets to afford the pilgrimage for one person. Depending on the country of origin, such a trip can cost the equivalent of several thousand to several tens of thousands of pounds.

Did not have permits

According to the Saudi Ministry of Health, up to 83 per cent of the fatalities were pilgrims without official permits who travelled long distances on foot to perform the Hajj rituals in the holy city of Mecca and its vicinity.

A pilgrimage to Mecca gathers hundreds of thousands of the faithful.
A pilgrimage to Mecca gathers hundreds of thousands of the faithful.© Getty Images | Mansoreh Motamedi

95 pilgrims are still in hospitals, and some were transported by plane for treatment in the capital, Riyadh.

The deceased were buried in Mecca, but the identification process for some individuals was delayed because many pilgrims did not have identification documents.

The Saudi authorities had attempted to expel tens of thousands of illegal pilgrims who, for instance, arrived on tourist visas long before the Hajj and waited in remote areas to proceed to the holy sites in Mecca and its surroundings. Many managed to hide from the authorities, but unlike legal pilgrims, they did not have reserved hotels or any other accommodation. They, therefore, had no way to shelter from the heat.

Tragedies in Mecca

In the last 30 years, over 4,000 Hajj participants have died. The reasons varied, including panic, tent fires, and heat. The most significant tragedy occurred in 2015 when about 2,400 people were suffocated or trampled to death in a stampede near Mecca. The second deadliest event during the pilgrimage was a panic in 1990, which resulted in 1,426 deaths.

The Hajj is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world. According to the Saudi Statistics Office, more than 1.83 million pilgrims from 23 countries participated this year.

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