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Over 1,300 Causalities During 2024 Hajj Pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that 1,301 people died during the Hajj pilgrimage, with a significant number of fatalities attributed to heat stress and unauthorized trips, CNN reported. In a statement, the Saudi government said, “The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number […]

Saudi Arabia Reports Over 1,300 Causalities During 2024 Hajj Pilgrimage
Saudi Arabia Reports Over 1,300 Causalities During 2024 Hajj Pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that 1,301 people died during the Hajj pilgrimage, with a significant number of fatalities attributed to heat stress and unauthorized trips, CNN reported.

In a statement, the Saudi government said, “The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301.” The statement highlighted that 83% of those who died were “unauthorized to perform Hajj” and had “walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort.” It also noted that the deceased included “several elderly and chronically ill individuals,” and that all the families of the deceased had been identified, according to CNN.

Extreme heat has been cited as the primary cause of the deaths and injuries reported during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, with temperatures in Mecca reaching a record 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday. Authorities have indicated that the problems were exacerbated by the number of unofficial pilgrimages.

Saudi Arabia mandates that each pilgrim obtain one of the 1.8 million available licenses to legally enter Mecca, the holy city central to the Hajj pilgrimage. These licenses can cost several thousand US dollars. Unlicensed pilgrims often do not travel in organized tour buses with air conditioning or easy access to water and food supplies.

The Saudi government suggested that the unauthorized nature of many trips delayed the official death toll, as it complicated the identification process. The statement read, “Identification completed, despite the initial lack of personal information or identification documents. Proper processes were followed for identification, burial, and honoring the deceased, with death certificates provided.”

Some pilgrims have criticized the poor infrastructure and organization of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage. Even those on official tours spent much of their day walking outdoors in the extreme heat. Witnesses told CNN they saw worshippers losing consciousness and passing bodies covered in white cloth.

Following Saudi Arabia’s announcement, the Egyptian government pledged to revoke the licenses of 16 Hajj tourism firms involved in organizing illegal pilgrimages to Mecca and to refer the companies’ managers to the public prosecutor, amid fears that hundreds of Egyptians are among the deceased.

The decision came after a cabinet meeting on Saturday, where a report highlighted questionable practices by some tourism firms. The report indicated that some operators had not issued correct visas, forcing pilgrims to enter Mecca “through desert paths on foot” and failing to provide proper accommodation, leaving people exposed to the heat, CNN reported.

During the meeting, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly expressed his “sincere condolences and sympathy” to the families of the deceased pilgrims and pledged necessary support.

Hajj permits are allocated based on a quota system, and Saudi Arabia requires each pilgrim to acquire one of the 1.8 million available licenses to legally access Mecca. The high cost of these licenses drives many pilgrims to attempt to access the site illegally, often without the benefit of organized tour buses with air conditioning or easy access to water and food supplies, CNN reported.

The timing of the Hajj pilgrimage, based on the Islamic lunar calendar, fell during extreme temperatures in Saudi Arabia in 2024. Pilgrims endured temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius, performing various rituals in and around Mecca that involve many hours of walking in the heat.

The total number of deaths during this year’s Hajj could still rise, as governments only have information on pilgrims who registered and visited Mecca as part of their nation’s quota.

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