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Thursday July 25, 2024

S Arabia says 1,301 deaths during Haj, mostly unregistered pilgrims

By AFP
June 24, 2024
Medical team members evacuate a Muslim pilgrim, affected by the soarching heat, at the base of Mount Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. — AFP/file
Medical team members evacuate a Muslim pilgrim, affected by the soarching heat, at the base of Mount Arafat during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. — AFP/file 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Sunday that more than 1,300 faithful died during the Haj pilgrimage which took place during intense heat, and that most of the deceased did not have official permits.

“Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83 percent being unauthorised to perform Haj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

An AFP tally last week, based on official statements and reports from diplomats involved in their countries´ responses, put the toll at more than 1,100.

Arab diplomats told AFP that Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths -- 630 of them unregistered pilgrims.

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

On Friday, however, a senior Saudi official gave AFP a partial toll of 577 deaths for the two busiest days of Haj: 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 the Haj this year as “successful”, SPA reported.