Hajj Pilgrimage Deaths In Saudi Arabia

Over 1,000 people, including 98 from India, have died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. While deaths during the pilgrimage are not new, the high number this year has been attributed to soaring temperatures and irregular pilgrimage (people who didn’t come through official channels), who can’t access the official cooling facilities such as air-conditioned tents and buses, AFP reported. Questions have also been raised about the preparations made by Saudi Arabia, with some pilgrims telling BBC that the tents were crowded and lacked cooling facilities. 

Saudia Arabia is yet to comment on the fatalities. 

Every able-bodied Muslim is required to complete the Hajj pilgrimage, at least once in their lifetime. Over 2 million people travel to Saudi Arabia for the five-day pilgrimage each year. 

According to the Associated Press, more than half the fatalities are from Egypt. Cairo has, as a result, revoked the licence of 16 travel agencies that helped unauthorised pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia.

According to the AP report, an Egyptial Cabinet official said at least 630 pilgrims who travelled to Saudi Arabia on visit visas have died. Most of the dead are at the morgue of the emergency complex in Mecca’s Al-Muaisem neighbourhood. Confirming the tally, an Egyptian diplomat said most of the dead had been buried in Saudi Arabia, as is the practice.

The government stated that 16 travel agencies failed to provide adequate services for pilgrims. It said these agencies illegally arranged for pilgrims to travel to Saudi Arabia using visas that don’t allow entry to Mecca. The officials of these companies have been referred to a public prosecutor for investigations. 

The fatalities reportedly include 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India, 2 from the US, and others from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia, according to AP.

Although the cause of death couldn’t be confirmed, some countries blamed the soaring heat.

During this year’s Hajj period, daily high temperatures ranged between 46 degrees Celsius and 49 degrees Celsius in Mecca and sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Center for Meteorology. 

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