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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pilgrims Face Heat Wave During Hajj: Many Die, Others Missing

Hajj 1445 witnessed tragic fatalities among unregistered pilgrims due to extreme heat in Saudi Arabia, prompting international diplomatic responses and highlighting climate change impacts on religious gatherings.

Officials from multiple countries confirmed that a significant number of pilgrims who perished during Hajj 1445 had entered Saudi Arabia on tourism or visit visas, bypassing official Hajj permits and support structures. This included Tunisian and Jordanian pilgrims who lacked authorized Hajj status, facing extreme heat in Makkah without essential services like accommodation and transportation. This unauthorized participation amplified their vulnerability, exacerbating the toll of fatalities due to the harsh environment.

The scorching temperatures, reaching 51.8 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Makkah, posed severe health risks to all pilgrims, especially those without proper permits who undertook long journeys on foot in rugged conditions. Without access to shaded areas and amenities provided to authorized pilgrims, many faced heat-related illnesses and fatalities, highlighting the dangers of participating in Hajj through informal channels.

Rising Death Toll and International Response

The death toll from Hajj 1445 climbed to over 1,081, with reports indicating that a majority were unregistered pilgrims who faced challenges exacerbated by the extreme Saudi summer. Egyptian pilgrims accounted for a significant number of casualties, with concerns raised about the heat triggering complications like high blood pressure among elderly participants. Other countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Jordan, also reported deaths among their pilgrims, underscoring the widespread impact of the heatwave.

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The response from affected nations included frantic searches for missing pilgrims and efforts to assist families in identifying and burying the deceased. Saudi authorities initiated the burial process for those who perished, following traditional practices while managing a high number of fatalities. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts focused on notifying families and providing support amidst the scale of the tragedy.

Global Heatwave Challenges and Climate Concerns

The extreme heatwave extended beyond Saudi Arabia, affecting regions like northern India and parts of Europe, where temperatures soared above normal. In Delhi alone, heat-related deaths surged, emphasizing the broader impact of climate change on vulnerable populations. The global context of rising temperatures and heat-related fatalities underscored concerns raised by climate scientists, predicting increased heat stress during future Hajj seasons, potentially exceeding safety thresholds set for pilgrims.

As the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia faces ongoing challenges in ensuring the safety and well-being of Hajj pilgrims amidst changing climatic conditions. The tragic events of Hajj 1445 serve as a poignant reminder of the risks posed by extreme heat and the urgent need for adaptive strategies to protect pilgrims in the years ahead.

Hajj 1445 has been marred by tragedy as unregistered pilgrims faced deadly conditions exacerbated by a severe heatwave. The international response underscores the complexities of managing a pilgrimage of this scale amidst changing climate dynamics. As investigations and support efforts continue, the focus remains on improving safety measures and enhancing resilience to future climate challenges during one of Islam’s most significant religious gatherings.