Hajj pilgrim death toll passes 1,300 amid extreme heat

More than 1,300 people died during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, officials have said, as pilgrims battled extreme heat to reach Islamic holy sites.

Saudi Health Minister Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel said that 83% of the 1,301 fatalities were unauthorised pilgrims who walked long distances in soaring temperatures to perform the Hajj rituals in and around the holy city of Mecca.

Daily high temperatures ranged between 46C and 49C in Mecca and sacred sites in and around the city- during the Hajj period, according to the Saudi National Centre for Meteorology.

The health minister told state-owned Al Ekhbariya TV the dead were buried in Mecca.

He said 95 pilgrims were being treated in hospitals, some of whom were airlifted for treatment in the capital, Riyadh. He added the identification process was delayed because there were no identification documents with many of the dead pilgrims.

More than 660 Egyptians were among the dead, and all except 31 of them were unauthorised pilgrims, according to two officials in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.

Unauthorised pilgrims are said to have had no hotels to escape from the scorching heat.

The fatalities also included 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India and dozens more from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia, according to an Associated Press tally. Two US pilgrims were also reported dead.

The AP could not independently confirm the causes of death, but some countries like Jordan and Tunisia blamed the soaring heat.

Deaths are not uncommon at the Hajj, which has seen at times more than two million people travel to Saudi Arabia for a five-day pilgrimage, but this year’s tally was unusually high, suggesting exceptional circumstances.

In 2015, more than 2,400 pilgrims were killed in a crush in Mina during the Hajj killed more than 2,400 pilgrims, the deadliest incident ever to strike the event.

A separate crane collapse at Mecca’s Grand Mosque earlier the same year killed 111.

The Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is one of the world’s largest religious gatherings. More than 1.83 million Muslims performed the Hajj in 2024, including more than 1.6 million from 22 countries, and around 222,000 Saudi citizens and residents, according to the Saudi Hajj authorities.

Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars on crowd control and safety measures for those attending the annual five-day pilgrimage, but the sheer number of participants makes ensuring their safety difficult.