Above-average heat forecast during Haj days

Published June 5, 2024
Fans blow air mixed with water vapour to cool off pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, on Tuesday.—AFP
Fans blow air mixed with water vapour to cool off pilgrims at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, on Tuesday.—AFP

RIYADH: The Saudi government said on Tuesday pilgrims can expect average high temperatures of 44 degrees Celsius during Haj, which last year saw thousands of cases of heat stress.

“The expected climate for Haj this year will witness an increase in average temperatures of one-and-a-half to two degrees above normal in Makkah and Madina,” national meteorology centre chief Ayman Ghulam told a press conference.

The forecast indicates “relative humidity of 25 per cent, rain rates close to zero, average maximum temperature 44 degrees”, he said.

There was “a need for sufficient quantities of water to cover daily consumption as temperatures rise”, the meteorology chief said. He said food for pilgrims should be transported in refrigerators so that it does not spoil.

Last year more than 1.8 million pilgrims performed Haj, official figures showed. More than 2,000 people suffered heat stress after temperatures soared to 48 degrees Celsius.

However, the real number of heat stress cases — which includes heatstroke, exhaustion, cramps and rashes — was probably far higher, as many sufferers were not admitted to hospitals or clinics.

At least 240 people, many from Indonesia, died during the pilgrimage, according to figures announced by various countries which did not specify causes of death.

Saudi authorities take steps to mitigate the effects of heat, including providing air-conditioned tents and misting systems.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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