Hundreds Die During Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca

Written by Camilla Jessen

Jun.19 - 2024 10:49 AM CET

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Scorching temperatures claimed hundreds of lives during this year's annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

Trending Now

At least 550 people have died during the hajj, diplomats told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday.

Among the deceased, 323 were Egyptians who mostly succumbed to heat-related illnesses, AFP reported, citing two Arab diplomats.

Extreme Temperatures

The pilgrimage, which began on Friday, faced severe challenges as temperatures soared.

Saudi state TV reported that temperatures reached as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius (125.2 Fahrenheit) in the shade at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on Monday.

The Jordanian foreign ministry reported issuing 41 burial permits for Jordanian pilgrims, with at least six deaths attributed to heat stroke.

Similarly, Tunisia's news agency Tunis Afrique Presse reported 35 Tunisian deaths, many due to extreme heat.

Indonesian health ministry data showed 144 Indonesian deaths during the pilgrimage, though it did not specify if heat stroke was the cause.

Other countries reporting fatalities included Iran, with 11 deaths and 24 hospitalizations, and Senegal, with three deaths.

Historical Context

Historically, the hajj has seen tragic incidents such as stampedes and tent fires, resulting in hundreds of deaths over the past 30 years.

This year, the rising global temperatures posed an additional threat.

A 2024 study by the Journal of Travel and Medicine indicated that rising temperatures might outpace efforts to mitigate heat risks.

A 2019 study by Geophysical Research Letters warned that increasing temperatures in Saudi Arabia due to climate change would pose "extreme danger" to hajj pilgrims.

Safety Measures

Before many of the death reports surfaced, a Saudi health official told Reuters that no unusual fatalities had been observed amid the high temperatures. The official noted that over 2,700 pilgrims had been treated for heat-related illnesses.

Pilgrims were seen using umbrellas for sun protection, and Saudi authorities advised them to stay hydrated and avoid outdoor activities during peak heat hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

An Egyptian pilgrim told Reuters, "Hajj is a difficult task, so you have to exert efforts and perform the rituals even in the conditions of heat and crowding."

The hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it, is one of the largest mass gatherings globally.

This year's pilgrimage is expected to conclude on Wednesday, with over 1.8 million participants, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.