Nine Kashmir Citizens Among 65 Indian Pilgrims Who Died During Hajj

   

SRINAGAR: The heatwave has played a spoilsport with the Hajj pilgrims as the international media reported not less than 550 killed so far. These included nine Jammu and Kashmiri pilgrims, officials privy to the development said.

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Two Makkah-bound Kashmir pilgrims bidding adieu to their families and friends before boarding a bus for Srinagar airport on June 7, 2023. Nearly 13000 pilgrims from Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh will be performing Hajj through private tour operators and the Haj Committee. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“From India, we have reports about 65 deaths,” one senior official associated with the pilgrimage said. “These include nine from Jammu and Kashmir including eight females and one male.”

“We have confirmed around 68 dead… Some are because of natural causes and we had many old-aged pilgrims,” a diplomat told AFP about the death of Indians on the condition of anonymity. “And some are due to the weather conditions, that’s what we assume.” He admitted many are missing but did not offer the details, the agency added.

“At least 550 people have died on haj, diplomats told French outlet Agence France Presse (AFP) on Tuesday,” global news gatherer, Reuters reported, insisting the mercury soared to 51.8 degrees Celsius. “Three hundred and twenty-three of the dead were Egyptians, most of whom perished due to heat-related illness, AFP reported, citing two Arab diplomats.”

Dead include 35 Tunisians, 41 Jordanians, 11 Iranians, three Senegalese citizens, and 144 Indonesians.

“Pilgrims used umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, as Saudi authorities warned pilgrims to stay hydrated and avoid being outdoors during the hottest hours between 11 a.m. (0800 GMT) and 3 p.m,” Reuters reported. “Haj, one of the largest mass gatherings in the world, is a once-in-a-lifetime duty for able-bodied Muslims who can afford it. It will end on Wednesday.”

“One list circulating online suggested at least 550 people died during the five-day Hajj. A medic who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss information not released publicly by the government said that the names listed appeared genuine,” another news gatherer, AP reported. “That medic and another official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said they believed at least 600 bodies were at the facility.”

Though deaths during Hajj are not uncommon, AP reported that “the number of dead this year suggests something caused the number of deaths to swell.” In 2015, a stampede at Mina during the Hajj killed more than 2,400 pilgrims, the deadliest incident ever to strike the pilgrimage. Before that 111 people were killed in a crane collapse at Mecca. In 1990, 1426 people were killed in a stampede.

More than 18 lakh and 30,000 Muslims performed the Hajj in 2024, including more than 16 lakh 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,” AP reported, adding that climate change could make the risk even greater. “A 2019 study by experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that even if the world succeeds in mitigating the worst effects of climate change, the Hajj would be held in temperatures exceeding an “extreme danger threshold” from 2047 to 2052, and from 2079 to 2086.”

Meanwhile, the Saudi health ministry claimed no extreme heat-related deaths among pilgrims during this year’s Hajj. Health ministry official Jameel Abualenain told Reuters that despite the high-risk population with various comorbidities, the well-developed medical infrastructure and immediate management services helped maintain normal morbidity and mortality rates.

The ministry reached over 27,000 pilgrims who suffered from heat illnesses and provided health services to more than 140,000 patients. Abualenain emphasised pre-arrival education on heat protection and hydration.

However, a well-educated Kashmir pilgrim told Kashmir Life from Madina that most of the deaths were because of compromised Saudi healthcare setup.

Meanwhile, Mirwaiz-e-Kashmir Moulvi Muhammad Umar Farooq has expressed deep sorrow and regret over the tragic deaths of more than five hundred pilgrims from various countries, including pilgrims from Jammu and Kashmir, who died due to severe heat, dehydration, and heatstroke during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. He expressed heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the families and loved ones of the deceased pilgrims and paid tribute to their faith.

As many as 7008 citizens from Jammu and Kashmir had flown to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage. While 6,852 pilgrims embarked from Srinagar, inclusive of those from Ladakh, 541 pilgrims departed from other airports, primarily Delhi airport.

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