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Over 1,000 Hajj pilgrims dead amid record-breaking heat in Saudi Arabia

As sweltering heat continues to prevail in parts of Asia, an AFP tally suggests that over 1,000 people have died during this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia. The report showed that more than half of those who died were unregistered worshippers who performed the hajj pilgrimage in extreme heat this year.

The new deaths reported on Thursday included 58 from Egypt, according to an Arab diplomat who provided a breakdown showing that of 658 total dead from that country, 630 were unregistered.
Around 10 countries have reported 1,081 deaths during the annual pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam which all Muslims with the means must complete at least once. The figures have come via official statements or from diplomats working on their countries’ responses, reported AFP.

The dates and timings of the hajj are determined by the lunar Islamic calendar, and once again, it fell during the sweltering summer of Saudi Arabia. Earlier this week, weather agencies reported a temperature of over 51 degrees Celsius in the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

According to a Saudi study published last month, temperatures in the area are rising 0.4 degrees Celsius each decade.

While this year the Saudi authorities cleared hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims for hajj, it was reported that many of them still participated in the pilgrimage without proper permits. Since unregistered pilgrims did not have access to air-conditioned areas and other facilities, they were the most susceptible to the heatwave.

“People were tired after being chased by security forces before Arafat day. They were exhausted,” one Arab diplomat told AFP on Thursday, referring to Saturday’s day-long outdoor prayers that marked the hajj’s climax.

The main cause of death for majority of the pilgrims was the extreme heat, which triggered complications linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular issued and other problems.

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