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More than 1,000 people died in pilgrimage to Mecca marked by extreme heat

Temperatures in the Great Mosque area exceeded 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

El hach, la peregrinación a La Meca. 18 de junio de 2024.


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(AFP) More than 1,000 people died this year during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca held in sweltering heat, according to an updated AFP count on Thursday, and more than half were unregistered pilgrims.

The new balance includes another 58 Egyptians, bringing the total to 658 people from that country to die during the Haj in Saudi Arabia this year.

Of them, 630 had technically come illegally to the kingdom, which distributes visas by country each year on the occasion of the pilgrimage based on a quota system.

In total, 1,081 people from about 10 countries died this year in the great annual pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam with which every Muslim who has sufficient means to do so must comply.

The figures come from official statements or diplomats from the respective countries.

The Hajj, whose dates are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, fell this year on the eve of the torrid Saudi summer.

The national meteorological center these days reported a temperature of up to 125.24 F at the Great Mosque of Mecca, the holy city where the prophet Muhammad began his preaching.

Saudi Arabia has a system of quotas for pilgrims by country, but every year, tens of thousands travel to the kingdom through illegal means because they do not have enough money to pay for the official pilgrimage.

These pilgrims are more vulnerable to extreme heat, since in the absence of official documents they cannot access the air-conditioned spaces opened by Saudi authorities, which this year received 1.8 million authorized pilgrims.

"People were exhausted," a diplomat told AFP this Thursday, referring to the exhausting day on Saturday, in which the faithful spent the day outside on the occasion of the climb to Mount Arafat, a hill near Mecca where, according to legend, Muhammad delivered his last sermon.

According to this diplomat, the main cause of death among Egyptian pilgrims was the heat, which caused serious health problems.

In addition to Egypt, pilgrims from Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Jordan, Indonesia, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia and Iraqi Kurdistan were killed.

Apart from the deceased, there are also missing people, and their relatives are looking for them in the hospitals in the area.