At least 600 Egyptians die in hajj pilgrimage: Source

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(EGYPT) — Around 600 Egyptians have died during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca amid scorching heat, a security source said, as authorities formed a crisis unit on Thursday to probe the deaths.

The Egyptian fatalities are part of at least 1,000 deaths reported from this year’s hajj pilgrimage from different countries due to extreme heat as temperatures soared past 51 degrees Celsius (123.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Most of the deaths occurred among unregistered pilgrims who did not have permits giving them access to air-conditioned tents and bus transfers between holy sites provided to authorized worshippers.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has ordered that a crisis unit headed by the prime minister investigate the deaths of the country’s pilgrims.

Egypt has not confirmed the total fatalities, but the cabinet said of the 50,752 officially registered pilgrims, 28 have died. Authorities said it was difficult to provide medical care for unregistered worshippers due to lack of information.

Egypt was coordinating with Saudi authorities to get an accurate inventory of the dead and missing and arrange for the transfer of bodies, the cabinet said in a statement.

Companies that had facilitated travel for unauthorized pilgrims would be investigated and penalized, it added.

Egyptian officials were visiting hospitals to obtain information about Egyptian pilgrims being treated or those who have passed away.

“There are large numbers of Egyptian citizens who are not registered in hajj databases, which requires double the effort and a longer time to search for missing people and find their relatives,” the cabinet said.

Videos posted on social media in recent days showed bodies of pilgrims scattered on the streets around the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Fatalities have also been confirmed by other countries with at least 183 having been confirmed dead by Indonesia, 68 by Jordan, 35 by Tunisia and 68 by India. Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Senegal also reported more deaths.

Hajj is one of the main pillars of Islam. Muslims who can afford it and are physically able are required to take part in it once in their life. It’s one of the largest annual religious gatherings in the world and over 1.8 million pilgrims were expected to take part in this year’s hajj, according to Saudi authorities.

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