Record heat in Mecca, 577 pilgrims dead

At least 577 pilgrims died during the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, due to record heat that exceeded 50°. Among the victims at the Al-Muaisem morgue there were 323 Egyptians, 60 Jordanians and other faithful from Islamic countries. One of them was overwhelmed by the crowd according to the Guardian, while the others died from pathologies related to high temperatures, which rose as a result of the effects of climate change. Saudi authorities reported treating more than 2,000 heat-exhausted pilgrims. Last year there were 240 victims, again due to the scorching heat.

The hajj is one of the pillars of Islam and all Muslims, who have the economic means to do so, must complete it at least once. Saudi authorities had advised pilgrims to use umbrellas, drink plenty of water and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day. But many of the Hajj rituals, including prayers on Mount Arafat last Saturday, involve standing outdoors for hours during the day.

Some pilgrims described seeing motionless bodies on the side of the road and that ambulances couldn’t seem to rescue everyone. According to Saudi authorities, approximately 1.8 million pilgrims took part in the Hajj this year, of which 1.6 million came from abroad.

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