550 Hajj pilgrims die in heatwave amid anger and accusations of neglect in Egypt

550 Hajj pilgrims die in heatwave amid anger and accusations of neglect in Egypt
At least 550 pilgrims have died during the pilgrimage this year, most of them from Egypt, amid accusations of neglect by Saudi authorities
4 min read
19 June, 2024
Hundreds of people have died during this year's Hajj due to the scorching heat [Getty]

At least 550 Muslim worshippers, around 323 of them were Egyptians, have died during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, as temperatures approached 50 degrees.

Most of the deaths were related to the extreme temperatures, the officials added, while one person died after sustaining fatal injuries during a minor crowd crush.

Temperatures have pushed well past 40 degrees Celsius during the pilgrimage that around 1.8 million Muslims took part in this year.

Egypt's ministry of foreign affairs issued an official statement saying they are making intensive efforts, in cooperation with Saudi authorities, to search for missing Egyptian citizens.

It added that the Egyptian embassy in Riyadh sent a consular mission to Mecca and the Muslim holy sites to monitor developments and conduct field visits to hospitals and medical centres where Egyptians have been taken.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and a compulsory act of worship for all Muslims who are financially and physically able to complete it, at least once in their lifetime.

According to The New Arab's Arabic language sister publication Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, thousands of Egyptians took part in the pilgrimage this year without having an official Hajj visa, which further added to the overcrowding and limited their access to air-conditioned facilities provided by Saudi authorities.

The report added that many went on normal visit visas, typically used by people to see family members residing in the country, then went on to perform Hajj. The pilgrimage is performed mostly outdoors and takes days to complete.

The ministry says it has started to take measures to transport the bodies of the deceased back to Egypt.

Social media users shared videos from the pilgrimage, showing many people laying down on the floor after struggling to cope in the heat. The videos showed some of the people receiving medical attention.

The kingdom has implemented heat mitigation measures, including climate-controlled areas. It distributes water, and offers advice to pilgrims on protecting themselves from the sun.

However, Saudi authorities have reported that they have treated over 2,000 pilgrims suffering from heat stress on Sunday. They are yet to provide updated information since then.


Online, social media users criticised Saudi authorities, accusing them of negligence of pilgrims.

Many used the Arabic-language hashtag #The_Egyptian_Pilgrims to share images and videos of people struggling in the heat.

"Hundreds of Egyptian pilgrims died when throwing stones at Jamarat [the ritual stoning of a representation of the devil during the Hajj], and the Saudi government is keeping the disaster a secret. Eyewitnesses say that they saw the bodies of pilgrims dumped in the streets amid the complete absence of medical and ambulance teams," one social media user alleged.

"Pilgrims are not dying from overcrowding but rather from poor organisation and negligence. There have been hundreds of deaths of pilgrims of different nationalities," another claimed.

The New Arab cannot verify the accusations.

Others called it a widespread disaster and used social media platforms to advise others on what to do if they have missing family members, instructing them to have their visa and passport information ready.

At least 60 Jordanians have also died according to diplomats, an increased from the tally of 14 given on Tuesday by Amman.

Iranian Red Crescent chief Pirhossein Koolivand added "five Iranian pilgrims have lost their lives so far in Mecca and Medina during the hajj this year", without saying how they died.

Hajj is being increasingly affected by climate change, with the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change warning parts of the Gulf could become uninhabitable by the end of the century.

More than 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded last year, 10 percent of them heat stroke, a Saudi official told AFP this week.

A Saudi study said regional temperatures were rising by 0.4 C each decade, and worsening heat may be outpacing mitigation measures.