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Relatives of missing pilgrims search hospitals after deadly Hajj heatwave

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Relatives of pilgrims reported missing during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia searched hospitals on Wednesday, fearing the worst after more than 900 pilgrims died, mostly due to the extreme heat.

 Al-Dar hospital in Medina Saudi Arabia © Mena Today 

Relatives of pilgrims reported missing during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia searched hospitals on Wednesday, fearing the worst after more than 900 pilgrims died, mostly due to the extreme heat. 

The majority of those who perished in the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city in western Saudi Arabia, were Egyptian nationals.

According to an Arab diplomat, the death toll of Egyptian pilgrims has risen to at least 600. "All the newly announced deaths are due to the heat," he stated, as temperatures soared to 51.8 degrees Celsius. Previously, other diplomats had reported at least 323 Egyptian deaths during the Hajj, which saw about 1.8 million participants this year, most of whom came from abroad.

Egyptian officials in Saudi Arabia have been notified of approximately 1,400 cases of missing pilgrims, a figure that includes the 600 confirmed dead, added the Arab diplomat. The new Egyptian death toll brings the total number of confirmed deaths during the Hajj to 922.

Facebook and other social media platforms have been flooded with photos of missing persons and pleas for information.

Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and every Muslim who is able must undertake it at least once in their lifetime. The dates for Hajj are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, and in recent years, the rituals have taken place under increasingly severe heat conditions.

The pilgrimage is increasingly affected by climate change. A Saudi study published in May warned that temperatures at the ritual sites are rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius every decade. 

Each year, tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to complete the Hajj through unofficial means, as official permits are often prohibitively expensive.

In addition to the Egyptian casualties, diplomats reported 60 Jordanian deaths. Deaths have also been confirmed among pilgrims from Indonesia, Iran, Senegal, Tunisia, and Iraqi Kurdistan. 

An Asian diplomat reported "68 deaths" among Indian pilgrims. On the previous day, diplomats stated that 550 bodies had been transported to the Al-Muaisem morgue, one of the largest in Mecca.

On Sunday, Saudi authorities stated they had treated more than 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress but did not provide information on the number of deaths.

This tragic event highlights the severe challenges posed by extreme weather conditions during one of the most significant religious pilgrimages in the world.

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