More than 1,300 pilgrims died during Hajj pilgrimage marked by extreme heat

More than 1,300 people died during the Hajj pilgrimage to Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia this year, as temperatures soared well into the triple digits, the Saudi health minister said Sunday.

Temperatures hit a high of 125 degrees during the peak of the five-day pilgrimage, which began June 14 and centered on the holy city of Mecca.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) estimated that more than half of the deaths were unregistered pilgrims, citing a Saudi official. Unregistered pilgrims do not have access to cooling infrastructure and other amenities to survive the extreme temperatures.

Saudi officials expelled tens of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca, though AFP reported that about 400,000 unregistered pilgrims performed the Hajj this year.

About half of the deaths, at least 630 people, were Egyptians, an Egyptian Cabinet official told The Associated Press (AP).

The fatalities also included 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India and dozens more from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia, according to an AP tally. Two American pilgrims were also reported dead.

Causes of death were not made public, but most are believed to have died of complications related to the heat. AP reported that its journalists witnessed many pilgrims passing out and collapsing during the Hajj.

Deaths are not uncommon during the Hajj due to the immense number of people who trek to the Saudi holy sites, though this year’s death toll is exceptionally high. The pilgrimage has also faced deadly epidemics and stampedes in previous years, including a 2015 stampede that killed an estimated 2,400 people.

Saudi officials said 1.86 million people performed the Hajj this year. The pilgrimage, considered one of the pillars of Islam, is a required rite at least once during a Muslim’s lifetime.

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