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Saudi Arabia: Death Toll Surpasses 900 as Heatwave Claims Hajj Pilgrims


The reported death toll from scorching heat during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia soared past 900 on Wednesday, June 19, leaving families and friends desperately searching for missing loved ones.

According to an Arab diplomat speaking to Agence France-Presse (AFP), deaths among Egyptians alone surged to “at least 600,” up from over 300 the previous day, predominantly due to the extreme heat.

This figure contributed to a total reported death toll of 922, compiled by AFP from various countries’ official reports.

The Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, drew approximately 1.8 million participants from around the globe, many of whom are elderly or infirm. This year’s pilgrimage coincided with Saudi Arabia’s intense summer heat, with temperatures hitting 51.8°C (125°F) in Mecca on Monday.

Families turned to social media platforms like Facebook in a frantic bid for information, sharing photos of missing pilgrims and pleading for updates on their whereabouts.

While Saudi Arabia has not disclosed its own fatality figures, it reported over 2,700 cases of “heat exhaustion” on Sunday alone.

Fatalities have been confirmed by several countries besides Egypt, including Jordan, Indonesia, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, and Iraq’s Kurdistan region. The causes of death in many cases have not been specified. A second Arab diplomat informed AFP that Jordanian authorities were searching for 20 missing pilgrims, with 80 others who were initially reported missing found in hospitals.

An Asian diplomat reported to AFP that approximately “68” pilgrims from India had died, attributing some deaths to natural causes and others to severe weather conditions.

The Hajj, one of Islam’s Five Pillars, requires all financially able Muslims to undertake it at least once in their lives. Its timing follows the Islamic lunar calendar, shifting annually in the Gregorian calendar. In recent years, the pilgrimage has frequently coincided with Saudi Arabia’s scorching summer months.

A Saudi study published last month highlighted a gradual rise in local temperatures, increasing by 0.4°C each decade.

Last year, over 200 pilgrims were reported dead during the Hajj, predominantly from Indonesia.

Irregular channels see tens of thousands attempting the Hajj annually due to the high costs associated with official permits. According to an Arab diplomat speaking to AFP, many of the deceased Egyptians were unregistered.

The situation remains fluid as authorities and families continue to grapple with the aftermath of this tragic event during one of Islam’s most significant religious observances.

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