July 18, 2024

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Hundreds died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia amid intense heat, officials say

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Hundreds of people died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as the faithful faced intense high temperatures at Islamic holy sites in the desert kingdom, officials said Wednesday as people tried to claim their loved ones’ bodies.

Saudi Arabia has not commented on the death toll amid the heat during the pilgrimage, required of every able Muslim once in their life, nor offered any causes for those who died. However, hundreds of people had lined up at the Emergency Complex in Al-Muaisem neighborhood in Mecca, trying to get information about their missing family members.

One list circulating online suggested at least 550 people died during the five-day Hajj. A medic who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss information not released publicly by the government said that the names listed appeared genuine. That medic and another official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said they believed at least 600 bodies were at the facility. The list offered no cause of death.

Each year, the Hajj draws hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from low-income nations, “many of whom have had little, if any, pre-Hajj health care,” an article in the April edition of the Journal of Infection and Public Health said. Communicable illnesses can spread among the gathered masses, many of whom saved their entire lives for their trips and can be elderly with preexisting health conditions, the paper added.

However, the number of dead this year suggests something caused the number of deaths to swell. Already, several countries have said some of their pilgrims died because of the heat that swept across the holy sites at Mecca, including Jordan and Tunisia.

Temperatures on Tuesday reached 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in Mecca and the sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Center for Meteorology. Onlookers saw some people faint while trying to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil.

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2024-06-19 09:41:00

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