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More than half a thousand pilgrims died from the heat

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At least 550 participants of the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, died as a result of the heat, the AFP news agency reported, citing diplomatic sources. At least 320 of the victims were Egyptians.

Participating in the hajj is an obligation for every orthodox Muslim. As a result, the pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world. According to the Saudi statistics office, more than 1.8 million pilgrims are participating this year, of whom 1.6 million are from abroad.

During the pilgrimage, over five thousand people died as a result of the heat. The temperature reached as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius.

“All but one of the Egyptian victims died from the heat,” an Arab diplomat who obtained the data from the mortuary of Al-Muaisem Hospital in Mecca told AFP. At least 60 Jordanians have also been killed so far. This means that the number of dead so far is 550, as reported by medical services, or 577, according to AFP calculations. The Egyptian victims included many pilgrims who came to Mecca without official registration, French agencies and media reported.

Pilgrimage to Mecca

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Saudi authorities urged people to drink plenty of water, protect themselves under umbrellas and avoid being outdoors during the hottest time of the day – between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. However, long-term rituals, which are a necessary part of the pilgrimage, require many hours of staying outside. A study published last month in Saudi Arabia found that climate change is increasingly affecting pilgrims. In areas key to religious rituals, the temperature increases every decade by 0.4 degrees Celsius. Hajj dates are flexible (the Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the moon), so in some years the pilgrimage takes place in the hottest months of the year. Over the last 30 years, approximately 4,000 hajj participants have died due to, among others, panic attacks, tent fires and heat. The greatest tragedy occurred in 2015, when approximately 2,400 people were strangled or trampled near Mecca. people. At least 240 pilgrims died last year, mostly from Indonesia.

PAP, Reuters, France 24, AFP

Main photo source: STRINGER/PAP/EPA

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