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Soaring temperatures scorch pilgrims on Hajj in Saudi Arabia

June 18, 2024 at 3:20 pm

A view from holy lands as Muslim pilgrims, coming from all over the world, continue their worship to fulfil the Hajj obligation with stoning of the devil on the second day of Eid al-Adha in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on June 17, 2024. [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]

Throngs of tightly packed pilgrims struggled through searing heat which has claimed lives during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, as temperatures reached 51.8 degrees Celsius (125.2 Fahrenheit) in the shade of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi state TV said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Six Jordanian citizens died of heat stroke during Hajj, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry said. It later said the death toll had risen to 14 but it gave no reason for the subsequent deaths.

Eleven Iranians have died and 24 have been hospitalised during the pilgrimage, Iranian state news outlet, IRINN, said on Tuesday without giving the cause of death.

Three Senegalese citizens also died during Hajj, Agence de Presse Sénégalaise, said on Monday.

One hundred and thirty six Indonesian citizens died during Hajj, three of heat stroke, according to an Indonesian health official, Le Monde reported on Monday.

READ: Palestinian journalist Dahdouh completes Hajj for his late wife

Stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have caused hundreds of deaths during Hajj in the past 30 years, forcing the Saudi government to build new infrastructure. The authorities now face new challenges protecting pilgrims from extreme heat.

A 2024 study by the Journal of Travel and Medicine found, amid rising global temperatures worsening heat may outpace mitigating strategies, while a 2019 study by the Geophysical Research Letters said that as temperatures rise in already arid Saudi Arabia due to climate change, pilgrims performing Hajj will face “extreme danger”.

The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage that millions of Muslims make to Mecca with the intention of performing religious rites as taught by the Prophet Mohammad to his followers 14 centuries ago.

A Saudi health official told Reuters that the authorities did not notice any unusual deaths among Muslim pilgrims performing Hajj during extremely high temperatures.

“We haven’t noticed, thank God, any abnormal or deviation from the normal numbers of morbidities and mortalities,” said Jameel Abualenain, head of the Health Ministry’s emergencies directorate, said.