Toll of Egyptians who died during haj pilgrimage rises, sources say

  • World
  • Thursday, 20 Jun 2024

Muslim pilgrims hold hands as they walk with umbrellas to the site where people take part in the Satan stoning ritual, during the annual haj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia June 18, 2024. REUTERS/Saleh Salem/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - At least 530 Egyptians have died taking part in the haj and another 31 are missing as extreme heat hits the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, medical and security sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Hundreds of people from different countries have died in recent days in punishing conditions at the Saudi Arabian city, where temperatures have at times soared past 51 degrees Celsius (124 Fahrenheit).

The medical source, who was with the official Egyptian haj delegation, said the majority of those who died were not formally registered for the event with the authorities, which meant they could not access tents.

A Reuters witness said thousands of pilgrims lay on the streets, exposed to the sun, on the climb to Mount Arafat, one of the integral rituals of the journey.

The bodies of dead pilgrims were later covered with Ihram cloth - a simple garb worn by pilgrims - until medical vehicles arrived, the witness said.

The fifth pillar of Islam, the haj is mandatory once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it and is the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity. This year's event, which began last Friday, is expected to draw nearly 2 million pilgrims.

Climate scientists have said rising temperatures pose a growing threat to the event, although heat-related deaths along the haj are not new, and have been recorded back to the 1400s.

Egyptian authorities have not confirmed the number of deaths.

The foreign ministry and emigration ministry have said they are cooperating with Saudi officials in following up on the search for missing Egyptians and on reports regarding casualties.

(Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Writing by Farah Saafan; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Frances Kerry)

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