Jordan says at least 14 pilgrims die during Hajj amid searing heat in Mecca

Saudi Arabia authorities urge pilgrims to protect themselves from extreme heat, hydrate and use umbrellas.

Muslim pilgrims gather on the Mount of Mercy near Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, June 15, 2024 [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]By Al Jazeera StaffPublished On 17 Jun 202417 Jun 2024

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have warned Hajj pilgrims to take measures to protect themselves from sweltering temperatures after Jordan reported that 14 of its citizens died of sunstroke during the annual ritual.

​Fahad bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel​, Saudi Arabia’s minister of health, called on pilgrims on Monday to hydrate, use an umbrella for protection from the sun and stay away from hot surfaces.

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“The solution is: ‘prevention, then prevention, then prevention’,” Saudi Arabia’s official news agency, SPA, quoted Al-Jalajel​ as saying.

He added that medics treated 2,764 pilgrims for heat exhaustion on Sunday, which marked the first day of the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday​.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry had said on Sunday that 14 pilgrims from the country died of sunstroke while 17 others are missing. It said those who died were not part of Jordan’s official Hajj delegation without saying where or when they died.

Separately, the Iranian Red Crescent Society said five pilgrims from the country have died without providing details about their cause of death.

Temperatures reached 52C (125F) at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on Monday, according to Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology. But rain brought much-needed reprieve later in the day, cooling down the holy site.

The Hajj pilgrimage takes place over several days in the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar. It consists of a series of rituals, many of which take place outdoors in and around Mecca. They include throwing pebbles at pillars symbolising the devil; walking in circles around the Kaaba – a cube-shaped shrine at the centre of the Grand Mosque; and gathering on the Mount of Mercy, a hill near Mecca.

Reporting from Mina, near Mecca, Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said it has been exceptionally hot, with umbrellas doing little to protect pilgrims from the searing sun.

“I’ve covered Hajj for many years, but this one has been extremely, extremely challenging for the simple reason that it’s really hot – very, very hot,” Ahelbarra said.

“I’m just thinking about the elderly and people with chronic health conditions. It’s going to be extremely difficult for them.”

This year’s pilgrimage will conclude on Wednesday.

The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims with the means and ability must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.

Saudi Arabia – whose monarch holds the title “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” – oversees the Hajj. The annual pilgrimage is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. More than 1.8 million pilgrims are attending Hajj this year.

Source: Al Jazeera