Heatwave in Mecca Claims Lives of 68 Indian Hajj Pilgrims, Including 5 from Gujarat, Amid 52°C Temperatures

Between June 12 and June 19, a severe heatwave in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, resulted in the deaths of 645 Hajj pilgrims, including 68 Indians and 5 from Gujarat. This information was disclosed to the AFP news agency by a Saudi Arabian official who wished to remain anonymous. 

Many of the deceased were elderly, and several other Indian pilgrims are reported missing. Despite the significant number of fatalities, Saudi Arabia has not issued an official statement regarding the death toll due to heat stroke. The Hajj pilgrimage commenced on June 14 and concluded today, Wednesday.

The paramedical team admitted many sick pilgrims to the hospital.

Extreme Heatwave in Mecca Results in Hajj Pilgrim Fatalities

From June 12 to June 19, an extreme heatwave in Mecca saw temperatures soar above 52°C, leading to the deaths of 645 Hajj pilgrims, including 68 Indians and 5 from Gujarat (hailing from Chhota Udepur, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Banaskantha, and Valsad). 

This number was initially reported as 577. The highest toll was among Egyptian pilgrims, with 323 deaths. Saudi authorities attribute these conditions to climate change, noting a 0.4°C increase in average temperatures every decade.

Many people fainted due to heat during Hajj pilgrimage.

According to reports, the extreme heat in Mecca from June 12 to June 19 has led to the deaths of 645 Hajj pilgrims. This includes 68 Indians and 5 from Gujarat. The fatalities also include 323 Egyptians and 60 Jordanians, with additional deaths from Iran, Indonesia, and Senegal. Saudi authorities attribute the majority of these deaths to heat-related illnesses, exacerbated by climate change, which has seen average temperatures in the region increase by 0.4°C every decade.

Pilgrims coming for Haj are being sprinkled with cold water.

Thousands of Hajj Pilgrims Receiving Medical Treatment Amid Extreme Heat

Approximately 2,000 Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia are undergoing treatment for heat-related illnesses. On June 17, temperatures in Mecca’s Grand Mosque soared to 51.8°C. The Egyptian Foreign Minister announced a joint operation with Saudi authorities to locate missing individuals. Saudi officials attribute the severe heat and its impact to climate change, noting a rise in average temperatures by 0.4°C every decade.

Pilgrims were seen going for Hajj with umbrellas amidst the scorching heat.

Safety Measures and Challenges for Hajj Pilgrims Amid Extreme Heat

Last year, 240 Hajj pilgrims, mostly from Indonesia, died during the pilgrimage. Saudi authorities have advised all pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink water regularly, and avoid direct sunlight. Despite these precautions, most Hajj rituals occur during the day, including prayers at Mount Arafat, requiring prolonged exposure to the sun. Pilgrims often witness sick individuals by the roadside, and ambulances are frequently seen along the Hajj route.

Hajj pilgrims who reached Mecca in the scorching heat are pouring water on their heads to cool down.

Pilgrims Without Visas Face Challenges at Hajj

This year, approximately 1.8 million pilgrims attended Hajj, with 1.6 million coming from other countries. Many pilgrims, unable to afford official Hajj visas, resort to unauthorized means to reach Mecca. This influx includes thousands who travel without the proper documentation, highlighting the financial and logistical challenges faced by many in their journey to perform this significant religious duty.

High Number of Egyptian Pilgrims Among Hajj Fatalities

Saudi officials reported to AFP that a significant number of the deceased pilgrims were Egyptians, many of whom had not registered for Hajj. Earlier this month, Saudi authorities expelled thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca. Organizing the Hajj is a matter of great honor for the Saudi royal family, with the Saudi King recognized as the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Niyati Rao

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