Haj pilgrimage threatened as hundreds perish in heat

Nearly 2,000,000 Muslims will complete the Hajj pilgrimage this week, but extreme heat has been fatal for hundreds who started the journey last Friday to the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. According to reports, at least 562 people have died during the Hajj. Egypt has reported 307 deaths and 118 missing. With temperatures hitting over 124°F, the Hajj timing is based on the lunar year moving back 10 days each year. While the Hajj is now moving towards winter, it will occur in the peak of the summer in Saudi Arabia by the twenty 40s. Climate scientist Fahad Saeed says these deaths hints at future risk for millions of Hajj pilgrims. We need to prepare, we need to adapt. We need to introduce the adaptation option as much as we can while realizing that it will compromise on the, you know, centuries old ritual. But still, we need to save people. But at the same time, we must do climate action to stop the global warming at 1.5°C at anything beyond that. I mean we are putting those pilgrims at the risk of death. Heat related deaths during the Hajj have been recorded since the 1400s. Pilgrims vulnerability stems from exertion, exposure and older age, as well as a simple lack of acclimatization to the heat. According to Saudi officials. Last year more than 2000 people suffered from heat stress during that Hajj. A 2021 study in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that if global temperatures rise by 2.7°F above pre industrial levels, heat stroke risk for Hajj pilgrims will increase by five times. Still, pilgrims remain determined. For some, it's a once in a lifetime affair. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and it is a mandatory duty for every capable person. So you have to exert efforts and get tired. Hajj is a difficult task. So you have to exert efforts and perform the rituals. Even in the conditions of heat and crowding. You use an umbrella, drink water and pour it onto your body to prevent dehydration. And the water sprinklers in the walkways help. In 2016, Saudi Arabia implemented a heat strategy. We've shaded areas, water points at every 500 meters and improved healthcare. Saudi health authorities advised pilgrims to stay hydrated and avoid outdoor activities from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM during this year's Hajj.

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