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Thursday July 18, 2024

Hajj deaths surge past 1,300 largely consisting of unregistered pilgrims

Reports reveal that deceased pilgrims belong to over 10 countries, ranging from US to Indonesia

By Web Desk
June 24, 2024
A pilgrim, affected by the scorching heat, is helped by a Saudi security forces member as pilgrims arrive to perform the stoning of the devil ritual during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina on June 16, 2024. — AFP
A pilgrim, affected by the scorching heat, is helped by a Saudi security forces member as pilgrims arrive to perform the stoning of the devil ritual during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina on June 16, 2024. — AFP

The death toll of pilgrims who had performed Hajj in extreme heat has now surpassed 1,300 and many among the deceased did not have official permits, AFP reported citing the official Saudi Press Agency.

The SPA said: "Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83% being unauthorised to perform Hajj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort."

While some governments are still updating their totals, it has been reported that the deceased pilgrims belonged to over 10 countries, ranging from the United States to Indonesia.

Last week, Arab diplomats had revealed that Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths, among whom 630 were unregistered pilgrims.

They said that the cause of death in most cases was heat-related as temperatures in Makkah this year climbed as high as 51.8°C, according to Saudi Arabia's national meteorological centre.

Riyadh had not publicly commented on the deaths or provided its own toll until Sunday.

However, on Friday, a senior Saudi official gave a partial toll of 577 deaths for the two busiest days of Hajj: June 15, when pilgrims gathered for hours of prayers in the blazing sun on Mount Arafat, and June 16, when they participated in the stoning of the devil ritual in Mina.

The official also defended Riyadh's response, saying: "The state did not fail, but there was a misjudgement on the part of people who did not appreciate the risks."

The Saudi health minister, Fahd Al Jalajel, on Sunday described management of this year’s Hajj as "successful", SPA reported.

He said the health system "provided more than 465,000 specialised treatment services, including 141,000 services to those who didn't obtain official authorisation to perform Hajj," according to SPA, which summarised an interview Al Jalajel gave to Saudi Arabia's Al Ekhbariya channel.

Saudi officials have said 1.8 million pilgrims took part this year, a similar number to last year, and that 1.6 million came from abroad.