550 pilgrims die during 2024 Hajj; linked to high temperatures, heat exhaustion


Published: 2024-06-19 12:17

Last Updated: 2024-07-14 10:32

550 pilgrims die during 2024 Hajj; linked to high temperatures, heat exhaustion (Photo: SPA)
550 pilgrims die during 2024 Hajj; linked to high temperatures, heat exhaustion (Photo: SPA)

At least 550 pilgrims have tragically lost their lives during this year's Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, according to officials cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP). The deaths are primarily attributed to soaring temperatures and heat exhaustion.

Also Read: Youngest Egyptian pilgrim passes away in Mecca during Hajj

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is exposed to excessive heat, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, and accelerated heartbeats. Dehydration and reduced urine output are also common under such conditions, as noted by the Saudi Ministry of Health. The condition is exacerbated by significant loss of body fluids and salts, often due to intense sweating or insufficient fluid intake, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The pilgrimage, which draws millions of Muslims from around the world to Mecca, saw temperatures reaching an alarming 51.8°C, according to the Saudi National Meteorological Center.

Elderly pilgrims and those with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory ailments are particularly vulnerable to heat stress, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"If not treated promptly, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition where the body's core temperature exceeds 40°C," explained health officials. Heatstroke can lead to organ failure and, if untreated, death.

The impact of climate change is exacerbating these risks, with studies indicating a rise in heat-related deaths globally.

WHO reports an 85 percent increase in heat-related fatalities among people over 65 years old worldwide, highlighting the urgent need for adaptive strategies to protect vulnerable populations during heatwaves.

A recent study published by Saudi researchers highlighted a consistent annual increase of 0.4°C in the region where Hajj rituals are performed.

Efforts to mitigate these risks include improving pilgrim accommodations, managing chronic diseases, and enhancing institutional care for elderly and vulnerable pilgrims, according to health experts.

Also Read: Foreign Ministry: Ongoing search for 22 missing Jordanian pilgrims after finding 84

The Directorate of Operations and Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates reported locating 84 Jordanian pilgrims out of 106 listed as missing, following reports of fatalities among Jordanian pilgrims.

The Ministry issued 41 burial permits for Jordanian pilgrims, fulfilling their families' wishes for burials in Mecca.