Over 550 Haj pilgrims die of extreme heat

Temperatures rise as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius in the shade at Grand Mosque in Mecca.

RIYADH/MINA (Reuters): Hundreds of visitors have died during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca amid scorching heat, according to press reports and foreign ministries.

At least 550 people have died on haj, diplomats told French outlet Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday. Three hundred and twenty-three of the dead were Egyptians, most of whom perished due to heat-related illness, AFP reported, citing two Arab diplomats.

Stampedes, tent fires and other accidents have caused hundreds of deaths during haj to Saudi Arabia in the past 30 years. The pilgrimage began on Friday.

Saudi state TV said temperatures rose on Monday as high as 51.8 degrees Celsius (125.2 Fahrenheit) in the shade at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

A 2024 study by the Journal of Travel and Medicine found that rising global temperatures may outpace strategies to deal with the heat. A 2019 study by Geophysical Research Letters said that as temperatures rise in arid Saudi Arabia due to climate change, pilgrims performing haj will face “extreme danger”.

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