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Hajj deaths: ‘There are not enough doctors’ to help pilgrims cope with heat, witnesses tell CNN as death toll mounts

Hajj deaths: ‘There are not enough doctors’ to help pilgrims cope with heat, witnesses tell CNN as death toll mounts



CNN

There were not enough doctors or basic facilities to protect pilgrims from Effects of extreme heat in Saudi Arabia Last week, two pilgrims who recently returned from the Hajj told CNN, as the official death toll from this year’s Hajj rose to nearly 500.

Witnesses said that worshipers losing consciousness and walking in front of bodies covered with a white cloth became a common occurrence during the mass religious event.

This year’s Hajj to Mecca was performed amid harsh weather conditions that saw temperatures consistently rise above average. The exact death toll is still unclear and is expected to rise much higher, as each country independently announced the death of its citizens.

In addition, governments are only aware of pilgrims who have registered and traveled to Mecca as part of their country’s quota – and more deaths are feared among unregistered pilgrims.

Zarar Ali, 40, who returned to London on Friday from the Hajj trip with his 70-year-old father, told CNN that authorities did not provide enough water, shade or medical support for the pilgrims during the week he spent there.

“For me, I felt like there were too many people, and not enough paramedics, so they were waiting for the worst to happen and then they would intervene,” Ali said, adding that people who had lost consciousness came to the hospital. Be regular.

He added: “I could not focus on my argument when I saw these people suffering.”

Ali’s comments were echoed by another witness, 44-year-old Ahmed from Indonesia, who told CNN he saw many people getting sick and even dying from the heat.

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Fadel Sina/AFP/Getty Images

A woman uses a fan to cool a man lying on the ground during Hajj.

“All the way home, I saw many pilgrims who had died. About every few hundred metres, there was a dead body lying covered in a blanket.” [white fabric] Cloth,” he said.

“Every time there is water distribution from locals or certain groups, they are immediately swarmed by pilgrims,” he added, saying he did not see health workers or a single ambulance along the route.

Pilgrims lamented the poor infrastructure and organization of Hajj this year, especially for those who traveled independently, outside licensed tour groups.

Saudi Arabia requires every pilgrim to obtain one of 1.8 million licenses available to legally access Mecca. These licenses can cost several thousand US dollars. Unlicensed pilgrims usually do not travel in organized, air-conditioned tour buses or have easy access to water and food supplies.

Rafiq Maqbool/AFP

Muslim pilgrims use umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun.

Despite the luxuries offered to some, all pilgrims spend the better part of their day walking outdoors under scorching temperatures.

According to Ali, five hours of walking a day is the minimum, but many pilgrims spend 12 hours outside a day.

For him, although the long journey is an essential part of the Hajj experience, he believes the Saudi government should have provided more assistance.

“Taking eight hours to get from point A to point B, that’s part of patience and that’s considered hardship… but at no point were we told, ‘If you don’t have water for ten hours, that’s part of the Hajj’ and it’s not considered part of the Hajj.” That is from the Hajj. He said: “If we are part of the Hajj, we must provide comfort and take care of ourselves.”

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The daughter of an elderly Indonesian man who died during the Hajj told CNN that her family was “happy” that he was buried in the Islamic holy city of Mecca after waiting for years to go on the Hajj.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Hero Gomartia said her 86-year-old father, Ngatejo Wongsu Sintono, registered to perform the Hajj in 2018 and traveled to Mecca with his 83-year-old wife and neighbors from the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

“My father was very excited to go to Hajj. He wanted to leave immediately,” she told CNN.

According to Islamic faith, death and burial in Mecca is considered a blessing, as many Muslims travel in their old age having saved money for the Hajj.

CNN has reached out to Saudi authorities regarding the inadequate response to this year’s heat wave, and has not received any response yet.

more than 1.8 million people He participated in Hajj rituals this year, which is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, according to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics.

While deaths among pilgrims are not uncommon (there were more than 200 last year), this year’s gathering is being held amid particularly high temperatures.

The Hajj season changes every year according to the Islamic calendar, and this year it fell in June, one of the hottest months in the Kingdom.

It occurs two months and ten days after the end of Ramadan, during the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah. Because the Islamic calendar is lunar and shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the timing of the Hajj on the Gregorian calendar changes slightly each year.

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