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Heat stroke kills over 1,300 Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia this year

More than 1.83 million pilgrims from 23 countries around the world participated this year.

High temperatures in Mecca ranged from 46 degrees to 49 degrees Celsius during this year's pilgrimage (image used for illustrative purpose) [BI]

Most of the victims died of heat stroke. The temperature during the several-day pilgrimage reached 49 degrees Celsius.

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Health, Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel, stated that 83% of the 1,301 deaths were pilgrims without permission from authorities who travelled long distances on foot to perform Hajj rituals in and around the holy city of Mecca.

In an interview with state-owned Al Ekhbariya TV, the minister said 95 pilgrims were still in hospitals, and some of them had been airlifted for treatment in the capital, Riyadh.

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The dead were buried in Mecca, but the process of identifying them was delayed because many pilgrims did not have identification documents.

The dead include over 660 Egyptians, and according to authorities in Cairo, 629 of them did not have permission from the Saudi authorities to perform the pilgrimage. Egypt has revoked the licenses of 16 travel agencies that helped unauthorised pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia.

Over 50,000 people came from Egypt this year. The Saudi authorities allocate a certain number of visas to each country for the Hajj, the performance of which - if financial and health conditions allow it - is one of the basic duties of Muslims, apart from professing faith (shahada), prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

The faithful often spend their life savings, and families often borrow money or sell property to pay for the pilgrimage of one of their members.

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The Saudi Arabian authorities have previously tried to expel tens of thousands of illegal pilgrims who, for example, arrived in the country on tourist visas long before the Hajj and waited in remote towns until they could go to the holy places in Mecca and its surroundings. Many of them managed to hide from the authorities, but unlike legal pilgrims, they had not booked hotels or other accommodation to escape the heat.

According to Associated Press data, the dead also included 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India and several dozen from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia. AP journalists saw pilgrims fainting from the heat, especially on the second and third days of the pilgrimage. Some vomited and fell.

Over the last 30 years, approximately 4,000 people died due to panic attacks, tent fires and heat. The greatest tragedy occurred in 2015, when approximately 2,400 people were strangled or trampled during chaos near Mecca. The second deadliest event during the Hajj was the 1990 stampede, which killed 1,426 people.

According to the Saudi National Meteorological Centre, high temperatures in Mecca ranged from 46 degrees to 49 degrees Celsius during this year's pilgrimage.

The Hajj, which ended on Wednesday, is one of the largest mass gatherings in the world. According to the Saudi statistics office, more than 1.83 million pilgrims from 23 countries around the world participated this year.

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This article was originally published on Onet Travel.

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