550 Muslims die in horrific heat as temperatures in Mecca hit 51.8C

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun19,2024

At least 550 Muslims died in scorching hot temperatures during the religious Hajj pilgrimage.  Millions of Muslims descended on the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia last week, with the Hajj taking place between Friday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 19 this year.  

However, thousands struggled to cope with the excruciatingly hot weather. Temperatures reached at least 51.8C (125F) in the shade of the Saudi Arabian city.

There are fears that the death toll, which is more than double the number of deaths reported at last year’s pilgrimage, could continue to rise today. The total figure came from the hospital morgue in a neighbourhood of Mecca. The latest death toll is 577, according to an AFP tally.

Horrific scenes during the religious rituals were reported. Some pilgrims described seeing motionless bodies on the roadside and overwhelmed ambulance services. Many elderly Muslims were seen collapsing under the heat of the sun.

One Egyptian pilgrim said: “Hajj is a difficult task, so you have to exert efforts and perform the rituals even in the conditions of heat and crowding.”

Saudi authorities had warned pilgrims to stay hydrated and avoid being outdoors during the hottest hours between 11am and 3pm.

Many pilgrims opt to perform the Hajj’s rites in the early morning or late evening hours for fear of suffering heatstroke in the daytime.

However, many of the rituals, including the prayers on Mount Arafat which took place on Saturday, involve being outdoors for hours in the daytime. Pilgrims often use umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.

The Saudi health ministry treated more than 2,700 pilgrims suffering from sunstroke and heat stress on Sunday alone. 

Symptoms of heat exhaustion and sunstroke, common under such extreme temperatures, include heavy sweating, dizziness, muscle spasms, and vomiting. Heatstroke is the most serious heat-related illness and happens when the body loses its ability to sweat.

Most of those who perished, some 323, were Egyptians. At least 144 Indonesians died attending the pilgrimage. Jordan, Senegal, Tunisia and Iran have also confirmed deaths. 

The Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is among the largest mass gatherings in the world.

Stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have caused hundreds of deaths during the Hajj in the past. Some 240 people died last year.

A Saudi study published last month warned that the pilgrimage will become increasingly vulnerable to climate change. The report showed that temperatures in the area where rituals are performed were rising 0.4C each decade.

It is considered a once-in-a-lifetime duty for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it to travel to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Great Mosque of Mecca – Masjid al-Haram – is home to the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site and the direction to which Muslims all over the world turn when they pray.

An incredible 1.8 million pilgrims attended this year’s pilgrimage – 1.6 million of those came from abroad.  Around 22 percent of this year’s pilgrims came from Arab countries.

The days of the annual Hajj coincide with the celebrations of Eid Al Adha, the feast of sacrifice.

Saudi authorities control the flow of pilgrims through quotas, allowing each country one pilgrim for every 1,000 Muslim citizens.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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