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Over 550 pilgrims die in Saudi, all Sierra Leone pilgrims are safe

HomeAYV NewsOver 550 pilgrims die in Saudi, all Sierra Leone pilgrims are safe

Over 550 pilgrims die in Saudi, all Sierra Leone pilgrims are safe

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AYV News, June 21, 2024

More than 550 pilgrims performing this year’s hajj in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been confirmed dead following a desert temperatures top 50C, under a blistering Gulf summer sun.
Press Attaché to Sierra Leone’s Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abubakarr Bah confirmed to AYV that all the 638 pilgrims from Sierra Leone are safe and doing great.
A release from the Saudi government said among the casualties were 232 Egyptian pilgrims, over 60 Jordanians and scores of Tunisians, diplomats have said and that deaths have also been reported among pilgrims from Iran and Senegal.
Saudi authorities said they have made efforts to reduce the impact of the heat by setting up air conditioned tents and painting the streets between sites white to reflect more sunlight, cutting heat-related deaths by 50 per cent over the past four decades.
However, the strength of this year’s sun was too overwhelming for many. Witnesses in the city of Mecca this year described seeing motionless bodies lying on the roadside and local emergency services overwhelmed by the number of people in distress.
On Sunday, Saudi authorities reported treating more than 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress. The figure has not been updated since and they have also not provided information on fatalities.
The hajj, which ran from Friday to Wednesday, fell during one of the hottest weeks of the year, with local authorities reporting unusually high temperatures.
Studies show that climate change has pushed temperatures in the Gulf desert by up to 0.4C per decade.
The situation appears to have been exacerbated by the arrival of huge numbers of unregistered visitors, who arrived at the holy site despite with no official hajj visa. This precluded them from accessing the rest stations.
The Egyptian death toll was “absolutely” boosted by a large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims, one diplomat said.
“Irregular pilgrims caused great chaos in the Egyptian pilgrims’ camps, causing the collapse of services,” said an Egyptian official supervising the country’s hajj mission.
“The pilgrims went without food, water, or air conditioning for a long time” and died “because they had no place” to take shelter, he said.
Saudi officials advised pilgrims to drink plenty of water, use umbrellas, and avoid exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day.
But many of the rituals, including prayers on Mount Arafat which took place on Saturday, involve being outdoors for hours at a time during the hottest part of the day.
Around 1.8 million pilgrims took part in the hajj this year, 1.6 million of them coming from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.
The pilgrimage to Mecca has been the occasion of repeated mass casualty incidents over the years. These have been caused by stampedes, extreme weather, construction failures and disease.
In 2015, more than 2,000 people died in a stampede near a bridge at the holy site in what is believed to be one of the deadliest hajj events. In the same year a crane collapsed into the Masjid al-Haram mosque, killing more than one hundred.
In 2023, the pilgrimage also took place in high summer temperatures. At least 240 pilgrims were reported dead by various countries, with the majority being Indonesians, many suffering dehydration and heart failure.
The final days of the annual hajj coincide with Muslims around the world celebrating the Eid al-Adha holiday.

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