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Tragedy Strikes: 1,301 Lives Lost in Saudi Hajj Pilgrimage Desert Scorcher

More than 1,300 fatalities occurred during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia due to extreme high temperatures, as announced by Saudi authorities on Sunday. Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel reported that 83% of the deceased were unauthorized pilgrims who endured harsh conditions while performing rituals around Mecca.

The casualties included over 660 Egyptians, with all but 31 identified as unauthorized pilgrims. Egyptian authorities responded by revoking the licenses of 16 travel agencies implicated in facilitating unauthorized travel to Saudi Arabia.

Many of the deceased were treated at the Emergency Complex in Mecca’s Al-Muaisem neighborhood. Egypt, which sent more than 50,000 authorized pilgrims, saw many unauthorized pilgrims reach the holy sites despite Saudi efforts to enforce restrictions.

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The Saudi Hajj authorities reported fatalities from Indonesia, India, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Malaysia, and two from the United States. Causes of death were attributed to the extreme heat, with reports of pilgrims fainting and suffering heat-related illnesses.

The Hajj, a fundamental pillar of Islam, attracts millions annually. This year, temperatures in Mecca exceeded 46-49 degrees Celsius (117-120 degrees Fahrenheit), contributing to the challenging conditions faced by pilgrims.

Historically, the Hajj has seen tragic incidents, including a 2015 stampede that claimed over 2,400 lives, the deadliest in its history. Safety measures are continuously improved, but the sheer scale of the pilgrimage poses significant challenges.

Climate change poses further risks, with projections indicating potentially dangerous heat levels during future Hajj seasons. As the lunar calendar shifts, future Hajj seasons will move into months with milder temperatures, offering some relief from the extreme heat conditions.

Saudi Arabia invests heavily in crowd control and safety measures for the Hajj, but addressing climate-related risks remains critical for ensuring pilgrim safety in the coming years.

June 24, 2024 11:41 a.m. 501

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