At least 1,301 people died in Hajj pilgrimage due to extreme 50°C heat

Thousands of people took part in the pilgrimage – but at least 1,301 died due to the unbearable weather
(Picture: AFP)

At least 1,301 people died in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Most of those were unauthorised pilgrims who walked long distances in the intense 50°C heatwave.

Temperatures soared to unbearable extremes in recent days in the Middle East as scores of people succumbed to the conditions.

More than three-quarters of those who died did not have official permits to take part and were walking under direct sunlight with no shelter, according to Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA.

Some of the victims were elderly or chronically ill.

Saudi health minister Fahd Al-Jalajel said pilgrims had been made aware about the dangers of heat stress and advised over how to mitigate it.

He said: ‘May Allah forgive and have mercy on the deceased. Our heartfelt condolences go to their families.’

Most people who died were unauthorised pilgrims who walked long distances in the intense 50°C heatwave without shelter (Picture: AP)

Nearly half a million pilgrims were treated and some remain in hospital suffering with heat exhaustion, he added.

More than half of the fatalities were people from Egypt, according to two officials in Cairo.

Egypt revoked the licences of 16 travel agencies that helped unauthorised pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia, authorities said.

Deaths are not uncommon at the Hajj, which has seen at times more than two million people travel to Saudi Arabia for a five-day pilgrimage.

People were suffering in the heat (Picture: AFP)

The pilgrimage’s history has also seen deadly stampedes and epidemics.

But this year’s tally was unusually high, suggesting exceptional circumstances.

During the Hajj period, daily high temperatures ranged between 46°C and 49°C in Mecca and sacred sites in and around the city, according to the Saudi National Centre for Meteorology.

At times, temperatures have reached at least 51.8°C in the shade.

Saudi Arabia has been heavily criticised for not making more efforts to ensure the hajj was safer.

Unregistered pilgrims had no access to facilities such as air conditioned tents and official hajj transport.

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