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June 17, 2024

Heatwave: Saudi Arabia reschedules stoning rite to evening

Muslim-hajj

Muslim worshippers throw pebbles as part of the symbolic al-A’qabah (stoning of the devil ritual) at the Jamarat Bridge during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on August 11, 2019. (Photo AFP)

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. The development resulted in the death of an unspecified number of affected pilgrims.
Pilgrims from Nigeria and Africa as a whole were the least affected.
It was gathered that Saudi hospitals within the area were busy attending to patients. At the same time, 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 that the 911 center in the Makkah region had received a total of 78,872 calls on Sunday.
The sun yesterday had reached a high of 47-48 degrees celsius with a prediction that it would rise 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 meters.
Confirming the incident, the Saudi Ministry of Health also on Sunday put the number affected by heat strokes and exhaustion at 2,764 pilgrims, blaming the development on non-adherence to instructions for drinking water and using an 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 to 4pm

Meanwhile, the country’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has banned going out from 11 am to 4pm for the ritual of throwing pebbles.
This was contained in a memo issued to all heads of Hajj participating Missions in Makkah, on Monday.
The directive titled: “Urgent Notice to All Hajj Office Heads” says:
“By the directives of His Excellency the Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, and to ensure the well-being of pilgrims amidst 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 pilgrims for personal cooling in crowded areas.