Middle East

Over 550 Hajj pilgrims die as temperature breaches 50 degrees in Mecca

RIYADH — Amid blistering heat in Saudi Arabia, at least 550 pilgrim have died while on the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

According to authorities, most of the visitors who lost their lives were from Egypt. The temperatures rose to 51 degrees Celsius at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Of the 550 pilgrims, at least 323 were Egyptians and most of them died due to heat-related illnesses, AFP reported citing two Arab diplomats.

“All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat except for one who sustained fatal injuries during a minor crowd crush,” one of the diplomats said, adding the total figure came from the hospital morgue in the Al-Muaisem neighbourhood of Mecca.

At least 60 Jordanians were also among those killed during the annual pilgrimage, according to the diplomats.

According to Iranian state news outlet as many as 11 Iranians have died and 24 were hospitalised during the pilgrimage.

The deceased also included 35 Tunisian citizens, as per a Tunisian news agency.

The Arab diplomats said the total at the morgue in Al-Muaisem, one of the biggest in Mecca, was 550.

Saudi national meteorology center said temperatures soared on Monday as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Many of the rituals are performed outdoors and on foot, creating challenges especially among the elderly.

“Of course, it is something very hard and tiring. The temperature is abnormal compared to the past years and this affects us a lot,” Ahmed Al-Baradie, an Egyptian pilgrim, said on Monday after finishing his second symbolic stoning.

A 2019 study by Geophysical Research Letters said that as temperatures rise in arid Saudi Arabia due to climate change, pilgrims performing Hajj will face “extreme danger”.

Saudi health ministry have so far treated more than 2,000 pilgrims who suffered from heat-related illness. The ministry, however, has not updated the figure since Sunday and also not provided information on fatalities.

All Muslims are required to make the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so.

More than 1.83 million Muslims took part in the Hajj this year, including more than 1.6 million pilgrims from 22 countries, and around 222,000 Saudi citizens and residents, according to Saudi Hajj authorities. — (Agencies)