Saudi Arabia: Over 550 Muslims Die From Heat During Hajj

The faithful could not stand the extreme temperature that reached 51,8 degrees Celsius

Screenshot 6 12 heat waves, Muslims, Saudi Arabia

Arab diplomats said on Tuesday that at least 550 worshipers had died due to extreme heat during this year's hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage in western Saudi Arabia, mostly Egyptian.

The annual pilgrimage, from Friday to Sunday, took place this summer in this region, where temperatures are among the highest on the planet: the mercury reached 51,8° Celsius in Mecca, considered the holiest place in Islam.

At least 323 pilgrims from Egypt died, the vast majority of them due to very high temperatures, two Arab diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Tuesday.

"They all died because of the heat," with the exception of one who succumbed after being injured when he was trampled by a crowd, one of the sources said. He clarified that the total number was given by a mortuary to a hospital in the Al Muaysem district of Mecca.

According to diplomats, some 550 bodies were brought to the mortuary in Al Muaysem, one of the largest in the holy city.

Based on an AFP count, a total of 577 people died during the pilgrimage. It is not clear whether all died because of the heat or from other causes.

Egypt's foreign ministry said earlier yesterday that it was carrying out "search operations for Egyptians who were declared missing during the hajj", citing "a certain number of deaths".

Saudi authorities announced on Sunday that around 2.000 worshipers with heatstroke had been treated, but did not say whether or how many had succumbed.

Among the victims were also at least 60 Jordanians, according to diplomats, while the Hashemite kingdom's foreign ministry said earlier yesterday that 41 permits had been issued to allow worshipers to be buried in Mecca.

The Hajj, one of the world's largest religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam, and believers who are able must make the great pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

But this religious gathering is increasingly suffering the consequences of climate change. A Saudi study released in May suggested that temperatures in places where ceremonies are held are rising by 0,4°C every ten years.

Saudi authorities had advised worshipers to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.

But many ceremonies took place during the day.


According to diplomats who spoke to AFP, the high number of Egyptian deaths was so heavy because many had not received permits, meaning they had no access to food, water, air-conditioning or shelter.

There were also reported deaths of believers from countries such as Tunisia, Indonesia, Iran, Senegal...

About 1,8 million worshipers took part in the great pilgrimage this year, the vast majority of them (1,6 million) foreigners, according to the kingdom's authorities.