550 pilgrims died during Hajj, 21 from Bangladesh

550 pilgrims died during Hajj

550 pilgrims died during Hajj

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims with the means to perform it at least once in their lifetime. This year, the Hajj pilgrimage was marred by extreme heat, leading to a significant number of deaths and highlighting the growing challenge of climate change on religious practices.

Death Toll and Causes

Diplomats reported on Tuesday that at least 550 pilgrims died during the Hajj, with the majority of fatalities attributed to heat-related illnesses. Among the deceased, 323 were Egyptians, with most succumbing to the extreme temperatures. A minor crowd crush incident claimed one Egyptian life. Additionally, at least 60 Jordanians died, increasing the overall death toll reported by multiple countries to 577 .

Heat-Related Challenges

Temperatures during the Hajj reached a scorching 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 degrees Fahrenheit) at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, as recorded by the Saudi national meteorology center. The extreme heat exacerbated the already grueling conditions of the pilgrimage, leading to over 2,000 cases of heat stress among pilgrims .

Despite measures by Saudi authorities, including advising pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water, and avoid sun exposure during peak hours, the outdoor nature of many rituals made it difficult for pilgrims to stay cool. Observers noted pilgrims pouring water over their heads and consuming cold drinks and ice cream to mitigate the heat .

Impact on Egyptian Pilgrims

The Egyptian contingent faced severe challenges, with a significant number of unregistered pilgrims causing chaos in official camps. This led to a collapse of services, resulting in a lack of food, water, and air conditioning. The harsh conditions contributed to the high number of heat-related deaths among Egyptians. Efforts by the Egyptian foreign ministry to locate missing nationals were ongoing, but exact numbers remained unspecified .

Broader Implications and Responses

The Hajj this year saw participation from around 1.8 million pilgrims, with 1.6 million coming from abroad. Many pilgrims, unable to afford official Hajj visas, attempted to perform the pilgrimage through irregular channels, lacking access to air-conditioned facilities and increasing their vulnerability to the extreme heat .

Saudi health officials reported that they had successfully implemented health plans to prevent major outbreaks of disease, providing virtual consultations for heat-related illnesses to over 5,800 pilgrims. However, the scale of the heat-related health crisis underscored the need for more robust measures in future .

The 2024 Hajj pilgrimage highlighted the severe impact of climate change on religious practices, with extreme heat causing significant loss of life and health issues among pilgrims. As temperatures in the region continue to rise, there is an urgent need for enhanced measures to protect pilgrims, including better infrastructure, more comprehensive health services, and stricter regulation of unregistered pilgrims. Addressing these challenges will be crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants in future Hajj pilgrimages.

   


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