Dozens die in extreme Haj heat, toll feared to be in hundreds

Beirut, June 19 (IANS/DPA) Dozens of Muslims have died during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia this year due to heat-related medical issues amid scorching temperatures, according to figures released by several countries.

Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported on Wednesday that at least 35 Tunisian pilgrims had died, while Iran’s semi-official Tasnim agency said 11 Iranian citizens were also among the dead. Senegal confirmed three of its citizens had died.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that 41 Jordanian pilgrims had lost their lives, meaning the total death toll stands at least at 90.

There are fears the number is far higher. Unconfirmed reports circulating on Wednesday said that hundreds of Egyptians had died. But neither Egyptian officials nor Egypt’s state media have commented.

Saudi Arabia has also not given any figures.

Muslims from around the world started the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Friday. Saudi Arabia expected around two million people.

The temperature in Mecca and other holy sites in the surrounding area hovered around 50 degrees Celsius through Tuesday’s final pilgrimage day.

Authorities called on participants to carry parasols, avoid being outside during the particularly hot midday hours and drink plenty of water.

The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims to make once in a lifetime – if they are physically capable of undertaking the journey to the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and have the financial resources.

Men wear seamless white clothes and women wear loose garments as they perform the same rituals in a demonstration of religious unity, equality and pursuit of spiritual renewal.



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