CAIRO: The number of deaths during this year’s Haj pilgrimage totalled 1,301 people, Saudi Arabia’s health minister Fahad Al-Jalajel said on Sunday.

The minister, quoted by state television, said that deaths were caused by pilgrims “walking long distances under direct sunlight without adequate shelter or comfort”.

Fatalities also included a number of elderly people and those suffering from chronic diseases. Some 83 per cent of the fatalities were among people who were not authorised to make the pilgrimage, he said.

Most of the dead were Egyptians. Security and medical sources said on Sunday that the Egyptian death toll had risen to 672 and another 25 were missing.

A total of 236 Indonesians died, according to Indonesian government data, while India’s External Affairs agency said 98 Indian citizens died during Haj.

Further deaths were reported by Tunisia, Jordan, Iran, and Senegal, making this year’s total toll at least 1,114 people, according to a tally.

An Egyptian crisis unit tasked with investigating the situation said on Saturday it has suspended the licences of 16 tourism companies and referred them to the public prosecutor, accusing them of being responsible for deaths it said were mainly among pilgrims not registered under the official system.

The unit said 31 deaths were confirmed as a result of chronic illness among officially registered pilgrims.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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