Diplomats say at least 550 pilgrims died during Haj, mostly Egyptians


Each year tens of thousands of pilgrims attempt to perform the Haj through irregular channels as they cannot afford the often costly procedures for official Haj visas.

This places these off-the-books pilgrims at risk as they cannot access air-conditioned facilities provided by Saudi authorities along the Haj route.

One of the diplomats who spoke to AFP on Tuesday said that the Egyptian death toll was “absolutely” boosted by a large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims.

“Irregular pilgrims caused great chaos in the Egyptian pilgrims’ camps, causing the collapse of services,” said an Egyptian official supervising the country’s Haj mission.

“The pilgrims went without food, water, or air conditioning for a long time.”

They died “from the heat because most people had no place” to take shelter.

Earlier this month, Saudi officials said they had cleared hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca ahead of the Haj.

Other countries to report deaths during the Haj this year include Indonesia, Iran and Senegal.

Most countries have not specified how many deaths were heat-related.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdul Rahman Al-Jalajel said on Tuesday that health plans for the Haj had “been successfully carried out”, preventing major outbreaks of disease and other public health threats, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Health officials “provided virtual consultations to over 5,800 pilgrims, primarily for heat-related illnesses, enabling prompt intervention and mitigating the potential for a surge in cases”, SPA said.

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