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Hundreds die during Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia amid intense heat

A pilgrim being sprayed with water   -  
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Rafiq Maqbool/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

Saudi Arabia

More than 500 people have died from heat-related illnesses during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca amid extreme temperatures, it was being reported on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia’s state TV reported that temperatures rose to 51.8 degrees Celsius in the shade at the Grand Mosque in the Islam’s holiest city on Monday.

Medics and officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed that the death toll could be as high as 600.

While Saudi Arabia has not given an official death toll, and the cause of death on the lists circulating is not named, families said many of them were due to extreme heat.

Most of the Hajj rituals take place outdoors and requires walking considerable distances between the sites.

To manage the intense heat over the five-day pilgrimage, which got underway on Friday, Saudi authorities implemented various safety measures, including misting towers, cooling stations, medical tents, and hydration points.

Officials advised pilgrims to use umbrellas and keep themselves hydrated, to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and to take rest periods between rituals to avoid heat fatigue.

But despite all the precautions, the death toll from the heat is expected to rise. On Wednesday, hundreds of people continued searching for missing relatives at Saudi hospitals.

Last year, more than 8,400 pilgrims were treated for heat exhaustion or heat stroke, with nearly half of them hospitalised.

All Muslims are required to make the Hajj once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to do so.

More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Hajj in 2024, including more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, according to the Saudi Hajj authorities.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on crowd control and safety measures for those attending the annual five-day pilgrimage, but the sheer number of participants makes ensuring their safety difficult.

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