June 18, 2024

2024 Hajj: Over 2,700 pilgrims suffer heatstroke, exhaustion as weather hits 48 degrees Celsius


…Unspecified number of deaths recorded

…Saudi Arabia reschedules stoning rite to evening

…Blames victims for non-adherence to directives

By Haroon-Ishola Balogun, Saudi Arabia

About 3,000  pilgrims were yesterday affected by heat strokes and exhaustion during their journeys to and from the Jamarat for the stoning rite, resulting in the death of unspecified number of affected pilgrims.

Pilgrims from Nigeria and Africa as a whole were least affected. It was gathered that Saudi hospitals within the area were busy attending to patients, while further emergency calls to health officials were overwhelming as some calls could not get immediate responses.

Head of Emergency Unit, through the Saudi Ministry of Health, Al-Shalhoub, said the 911 center in the Makkah region received a total of 78,872 calls on Sunday.

The sun yesterday had reached all time high of 47-48 degree Celcius, with a prediction that it would rise further in the days ahead.

Most pilgrims whose tents are located at the end of Mina, would have to walk 2.8 kilometres, an average of  90-105 minutes to Jamarat.

A pilgrim, who witnessed some of the incidents on the way to Jamarat from Mina, said: “I saw many of them falling asleep, a result of the heat, when I was walking to Jamarat. Mostly affected were the elderly and young non-Arabs, Europeans and Indians. Some died while some were rushed to the hospital.

“In fact, the police and the ambulance services were overwhelmed with the number of cases related to heatwaves.

“Many were seen lying down with people offering first aid assistance mostly within a distance of 500 metres.’

“Confirming the incident, Saudi Ministry of Heath also on Sunday, put the number affected by heat strokes and exhaustion at 2,764 pilgrims, blaming the development on non-adherence to instructions of drinking water and using the umbrella.

“The number of cases of heat exhaustion and sunstroke reached 2,764 cases during this day alone as a result of some pilgrims not adhering to the instructions.

“We recommend campaign organizers to guide and educate pilgrims to adhere to the guidelines and protect them from exposure to any heat stress.

“Physical stress will lead to heat stress, and rest and spacing between performing rituals is important.” Saudi Ministry of Health said.

Saudi bans going out at peak time: 11am-4pm

Meanwhile, the country’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has banned going out from 11am to 4pm for the ritual of throwing pebbles.

This was contained in a memo issued to all heads of Hajj participating missions in Makkah yesterday.

The directive, titled “Urgent Notice to All Hajj Office Heads,”, read:  “By the directives of His Excellency, the Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, and to ensure the well-being of pilgrims amid high temperatures and to prevent heat stress, the following measures have been implemented:“

”Pilgrims are prohibited from proceeding to the Jamarat Bridge for the ritual of throwing stones from 11 am to 4 pm.

”Security personnel will be stationed at camps to enforce this restriction and prevent any pilgrim from departing before 4 pm.

”The Office of Hajj Affairs and service providers are tasked with ensuring compliance, and they will bear responsibility for any violations thereof.”

Measures towards reducing the effect

Saudi Arabia’s measures towards mitigating the heat strokes include extensive cooling systems, both manual and automated water sprinklers strategically mounted along Jamarat-Mina road.

Some pilgrims also use rechargeable and battery-powered neck and handheld fans in their determination to offset the challenging conditions brought by the heat.

There are also portable fans procured by individual pilgrim for personal cooling in crowded areas.