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Pilgrimage to Mecca: several deaths already, Saudi Arabia warns of peak heat

Pilgrimage to Mecca: several deaths already, Saudi Arabia warns of peak heat

Pilgrimage to Mecca: several deaths already, Saudi Arabia warns of peak heat

Saudi Arabia warned Monday of extreme temperatures in Mecca, where at least 22 people died due to heat during the major Muslim pilgrimage of the Hajj, according to authorities in several countries. The annual rite, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, took place again this year during the summer, a particularly hot season in Saudi Arabia. On Sunday alone, more than 2,700 cases of “heat exhaustion” were recorded, the Ministry of Health reported following the results of the great pilgrimage.

Some walked around the Kabaa, the cubic structure at the center of the Great Mosque, while others completed the ritual of stoning Satan in the valley near Mina, in front of steles symbolizing the devil, at which stones were thrown. “The holy sites today recorded the highest temperature since the start of the Hajj, which could reach 49 degrees, and we advise God’s guests not to be exposed to the sun,” the Health Ministry said, according to state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV. . Saudi Weather reported on X that the temperature in Mecca reached 51.8 degrees.

Carry an umbrella, drink water…

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that 14 Jordanian pilgrims had died “after sunstroke due to extreme heat” and another 17 were “missing”. Tehran reported the deaths of five Iranian pilgrims without specifying the cause of their deaths, while Dakar said three Senegalese pilgrims also died.

In Iran, the head of the Red Crescent, for his part, indicated that five Iranian pilgrims “died (…) in Mecca and Medina,” without immediately specifying the circumstances of their deaths. Three Senegalese also died in Mecca, their country’s foreign ministry said early Monday, without specifying the cause of their deaths.

“Prevention is important and pilgrims should not go outside unnecessarily during the hottest hours or use an umbrella,” the Saudi Health Ministry said in a statement quoted by El-Ekhbariya. “Our health instructions for the coming days are clear and simple: carry an umbrella, drink water regularly and avoid exposure to the sun,” he added. This year’s hajj attracted about 1.8 million pilgrims, including 1.6 million from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.

“It was like the end of the world”

In Mina on Monday, pilgrims sprayed their heads with water while authorities handed out cold drinks and chocolate ice cream that quickly melted. Azza Hamid Brahim, a 61-year-old Egyptian woman, said she saw motionless bodies on the side of the road as she walked to and from the steles depicting Satan: “It was like the Last Judgment, the end of the world.” “It was a very difficult day. We told ourselves: It’s over, we’ll die because of the heat,” she told AFP.

Arzoo Farhaj from Pakistan said she struggled to find help for the woman who was lying on the side of the road. “She didn’t have anyone. And people passed by indifferently, she explained. “We asked security to call an ambulance or something, but that didn’t happen.”

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and Muslims who can afford it should undertake it at least once in their lives. It is the source of prestige and legitimacy for Saudi Arabia, whose king bears the title of “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” of Mecca and Medina.

In a message, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, said Sunday that his country has an obligation to “do everything to help believers worship safely and confidently.”

Source: Le Parisien

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