Home Opinion Religion 2024 Hajj: Pilgrims death toll surpasses 1,300

2024 Hajj: Pilgrims death toll surpasses 1,300

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Over 1,300 people are reported to have died in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage – with “numerous cases” due to heat stress and “unauthorized” trips accounting for over 80% of the fatalities, Saudi Arabian authorities have said.

“The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301”, the Saudi government said in a statement as it released its first official figures.

The statement said 83% of those who died were “unauthorized to perform Hajj” and “walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort”.

There were “several elderly and chronically ill individuals” among the deceased, it said, adding that the families of all the dead had now been identified.

The high death toll and injuries have been blamed on extreme heat. Mecca, the holy city that is central for Hajj pilgrims, saw temperatures soar to a record-setting 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday.
Various authorities have also said the problems have been compounded by the number of unofficial pilgrimages.

Saudi Arabia requires each pilgrim to acquire one of the 1.8 million available licenses to legally access Mecca. These licenses can cost several thousand US dollars. Unlicensed pilgrims typically don’t travel in organized tour buses with air conditioning or easy access to water and food supplies.

The Saudi government also appeared to suggest the unauthorized nature of many of the trips had been a factor in how long it had taken to issue an official death toll as this had complicated the identification process.

“Identification completed, despite the initial lack of personal information or identification documents. Proper processes were followed for identification, burial, and honoring the deceased, with death certificates provided”, the statement said.

Some pilgrims have lamented the poor infrastructure and organization of this year’s Hajj. Even pilgrims on official tours spend the bulk of their day walking outdoors in the scorching heat.

Some witnesses have told CNN of how they saw worshipers losing consciousness and walked past bodies covered in white cloth.

The announcement from Saudi Arabia comes as the Egyptian government vowed to revoke the licenses of 16 Hajj tourism companies involved in making illegal pilgrimages to Mecca and refer the company’s managers to the public prosecutor amid fears hundreds of Egyptians are among the dead.

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