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Hajj: Over 1,000 died of extreme heat, including more than 650 Egyptians

Most of the dead are unregistered pilgrims who died in temperatures exceeding 40 celsius, new tally suggests
Muslim pilgrims use umbrellas to shade themselves from the sun as they arrive at the base of Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the annual hajj pilgrimage on 15 June 2024 (AFP)

The death toll from this year's Hajj in Saudi Arabia has exceeded 1,000, according to a new tally by AFP.

The news agency cited an Arab diplomat as saying that more than 658 of the total deaths are from Egypt, with an estimated 630 of them unregistered pilgrims. 

More than half of the fatalities are unregistered, according to AFP. 

Pilgrims who are not registered usually travel with a tourist or work visas, paying significantly lower fees to travel agencies, and do not benefit from Hajj packages that have become increasingly costly.

At least 60 Jordanians are amongst those who have died, according to AFP, as well as 35 Tunisiansaccording to the country's foreign ministry.

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Indonesia, Iran and Senegal also reported deaths at this year's Hajj, which began on 14 June, but did not specify if they were heat-related.

Temperatures at the Grand Mosque in Mecca reached 51.8 degrees celsius on Monday, Saudi Arabia's national meteorology centre said. 

Medical team members evacuate a pilgrim affected by the scorching heat, at the base of Mount Arafat during the annual hajj pilgrimage on 15 June (AFP)
Medical team members evacuate a pilgrim affected by the scorching heat, at the base of Mount Arafat during the annual hajj pilgrimage on 15 June (AFP)

Saudi authorities said on Sunday that 2,000 Hajj pilgrims had suffered heat stress. It has not updated the figures since then, and provided no information on fatalities. 

Videos shared on social media showed scores of pilgrims lying lifeless on the side of roads in the scorching heat, prompting criticism for the lack of adequate protection for the pilgrims by Saudi authorities. 

Missing pilgrims

Cairo's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it was working with Saudi authorities to search for Egyptians who had gone missing during the pilgrimage. 

An Egyptian official who spoke to AFP said the high Egyptian death toll was "absolutely" boosted by unregistered pilgrims. 

"Irregular pilgrims caused great chaos in the Egyptian pilgrims' camps, causing the collapse of services," said the official, who is supervising Egypt's Hajj mission.

"The pilgrims went without food, water or air conditioning for a long time," the official said, adding that people died because they had no place to take shelter. 

Around 1.8 million pilgrims performed the Hajj this year, of whom 1.6 million were from abroad, according to Saudi authorities. 

On the Day of Arafat, which took place on Saturday, pilgrims spent the whole day near a hill known as Mount Arafat (the Mount of Mercy), where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. 

Saudi officials advised pilgrims to use umbrellas, stay hydrated and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours. 

The annual pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is increasingly being affected by climate change.

A recent Saudi study found that temperatures in areas where Hajj rituals are performed are rising by 0.4 degrees celsius each decade. 

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