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Over 1,000 Pilgrims Died During This Year’s Hajj Pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Officials Say

More than 1,000 people died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as they faced extreme high temperatures at Islamic holy sites in the desert kingdom, officials said Sunday. More than half of the fatalities were people from Egypt, according to two officials in Cairo. Egypt revoked the licenses of 16 travel agencies that helped unauthorized pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia, authorities said. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the deaths during the pilgrimage, which is required of every able Muslim once in their life. The Egyptian government announced the death of 31 authorized pilgrims due to chronic diseases during this year’s Hajj, but didn’t offer an official tally for other pilgrims. Egypt sent more than 50,000 authorized pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year, the government said. However, a Cabinet official said that at least 630 other Egyptians died during the pilgrimage, with most reported at the Emergency Complex in Mecca’s Al-Muaisem neighborhood. Confirming the tally, an Egyptian diplomat said most of the dead have been buried in Saudi Arabia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief journalists. Saudi authorities cracked down on unauthorized pilgrims, expelling tens of thousands of people. But many, mostly Egyptians, managed to reach holy sites in and around Mecca, some on foot. Unlike authorized pilgrims, they had no hotels to escape from the scorching heat. In its statement, the government said the 16 travel agencies failed to provide adequate services for pilgrims. It said these agencies illegally facilitated the travel of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia using visas that don’t allow holders to travel to Mecca. The government also said officials from the companies have been referred to the public prosecutor for investigations. According to the state-owned Al-Ahram daily, some travel agencies and Hajj trip operators sold Saudi tourist visas to Egyptian Hajj hopefuls, violating Saudi regulations which require exclusive visas for pilgrims. Those agencies left pilgrims in limbo in Mecca and the holy sites amid scorching heat, the newspaper said. The fatalities also included 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India and dozens more from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia, according to an Associated Press tally. Two U.S. pilgrims were also reported dead. The AP could not independently confirm the causes of death, but some countries like Jordan and Tunisia blamed the soaring heat. Saudi officials did not respond to questions seeking more information. Associated Press journalists saw pilgrims fainting from the scorching heat during the Hajj, especially on the second and third days. Some vomited and collapsed. Deaths are not uncommon at the Hajj, which has seen at times over 2 million people travel to Saudi Arabia for a five-day pilgrimage. The pilgrimage’s history has also seen deadly stampedes and epidemics. But this year’s tally was unusually high, suggesting exceptional circumstances. In 2015 a stampede in Mina killed over 2,400 pilgrims, the deadliest incident ever to strike the pilgrimage, according to an AP count. Saudi Arabia has never acknowledged the full toll of the stampede. A separate crane collapse at Mecca’s Grand Mosque earlier the same year killed 111. The second-deadliest incident at the Hajj was a 1990 stampede that killed 1,426 people. During this year’s Hajj period, daily high temperatures ranged between 46 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) and 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees […]
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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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