‘Hundreds died during Haj amid intense heat’
   Date :24-Jun-2024

Hundreds died during Haj  
HUNDREDS of people died during this year’s Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as the faithful faced intense high temperatures at Islamic holy sites in the desert kingdom, officials said on Wednesday as people tried to claim their loved ones’ bodies. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the death toll amid the heat during the pilgrimage, required of every able Muslim once in their life, nor offered any causes for those who died. However, hundreds of people had lined up at the Emergency Complex in Al-Muaisem neighborhood in Mecca, trying to get information about their missing family members. One list circulating online suggested at least 550 people died during the five-day Haj. A medic who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss information not released publicly by the Government said that the names listed appeared genuine. That medic and another official who also spoke on condition of anonymity for the same reason said they believed at least 600 bodies were at the facility. Deaths are not uncommon at the Haj, which has seen at times over 2 million people travel to Saudi Arabia.
There have also been stampedes and epidemics through the pilgrimage’s history. Each year, the Haj draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from low-income nations, “many of whom have had little, if any, pre-Haj health care,” according to an article in the April edition of the Journal of Infection and Public Health. Communicable illnesses can spread among the gathered masses, many of whom save their entire lives for the pilgrimage and can be elderly with preexisting health conditions, it said. However, the number of dead this year suggests something caused the fatalities to swell. Already, several countries have said some of their pilgrims died because of the heat that swept across the holy sites at Mecca, including Jordan and Tunisia. Khalid Bashir Bazaz, an Indian pilgrim, speaking near the Grand Mosque on Wednesday, said he “saw a lot of people collapsing to the ground unconscious” during this year’s Haj.
Temperatures on Tuesday reached 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Centre for Meteorology. Some people fainted while trying to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil. Many Egyptians said they lost track of their loved ones in the heat and the crowds. More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Haj in 2024, including more than 1.6 million from 22 countries, and around 2,22,000 Saudi citizens and residents, according to the Saudi Haj authorities.