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Excruciating heat blamed as hundreds of pilgrims die on journey to Mecca

Pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Masjidil Haram, Islam's holiest site, during the Tawaf Al-Qudum (Tawaf of Arrival) on the first day of Hajj 2020, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Reports said that at least 500 have died this year because of the heat. File Photo courtesy of Saudi Ministry of Media/EPA-EFE
Pilgrims circle the Kaaba at the Masjidil Haram, Islam's holiest site, during the Tawaf Al-Qudum (Tawaf of Arrival) on the first day of Hajj 2020, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Reports said that at least 500 have died this year because of the heat. File Photo courtesy of Saudi Ministry of Media/EPA-EFE

June 19 (UPI) -- At least 550 people have died during pilgrimages to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which started on Friday, according to reports.

Most of the deaths have been blamed on the unrelenting heatwave, where temperatures have reached as high as 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The deaths already topped the 240 deaths reported in 2023. The Hajj usually coincides with the religious holiday Eid al-Adha.

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Saudi health ministry officials said that, so far, they have cared for more than 2,700 pilgrims during the Hajj, treating them for heat-related illnesses.

While the Saudi Arabia government did not give out death figures, Jordan's news agency said on Wednesday that burial permits have been issued to 41 residents who made the trip to Mecca. It did not provide a cause of death.

It said that, of those, 14 had been confirmed of dying from extreme heat exposure, according to the New York Times.

The Tunisia foreign ministry said 35 of its citizens have died in connection with the Mecca pilgrimage, noting the sharp rise in temperatures. Indian officials said 13 people from the Kerala state died while the Russian state-run news agency TASS said four of its citizens died from "natural causes related to health and age."

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Thousands of Muslims travel to Mecca for a once-in-lifetime obligation to visit the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and of the Islamic religion. Some 1.8 million Muslims were expected to make the trip this year, with most of them, 1.6 million, traveling from outside of Saudi Arabia.

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