Egypt repatriating deceased Egyptian pilgrims and locating missing ones

Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

Egypt has established a 24/7 operations chamber to handle requests for locating missing Egyptian Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and repatriating the bodies of the deceased, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday.

Muslim pilgrims perform the farewell circumambulation or tawaf , circling seven times around the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca at the end of the annual hajj pilgrimage. AFP


Individuals with relatives missing in Mecca, Medina, and the holy pilgrimage sites, or those seeking repatriation of deceased relatives, are advised to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They can head directly to the ministry’s headquarters at 7 Lazoghly Street, first floor in Cairo’s Garden City district, Isis building.

They can reach the operations room through the following phone numbers: (27923050 – 27923060 – 27942782 – 01006638814).

Hundreds of deaths

This year's Hajj season has witnessed the deaths of at least 550 pilgrims, including 323 Egyptians, due to sweltering temperatures, diplomats told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday.

A pilgrim receives cold water spray after she performs the stoning ritual in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, June 18, 2024. AP

The bodies of the victims are currently held in the hospital morgue in Mecca.

Meanwhile, an AFP tally estimates the number of victims from multiple countries at 577 as of Tuesday.

"All of them (the Egyptians) died because of heat" except for one who sustained fatal injuries during a minor crowd crush, one of the diplomats said.

The Hajj this year, 1445 AH, is being performed by nearly 2 million pilgrims amid scorching heat. Temperatures neared 52 degrees Celsius in Mecca on Monday, according to Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology (NCM).

Huge crowds, heat

One of the diplomats who spoke to AFP said the presence of a large number of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims during this season has “absolutely” contributed to the Egyptian death toll as this led to the collapse of provided services.

“Irregular pilgrims caused great chaos in the Egyptian pilgrims’ camps, causing the collapse of services,” said an Egyptian official supervising the country's Hajj mission.

“The pilgrims went without food, water, or air conditioning for a long time." They died "from the heat because most people had no place” to take shelter.

Saudi Arabia annually develops major works to provide cooling systems and air-conditioned facilities and tents for Hajj pilgrims in Mecca and other holy sites.

Saudi officials have also advised pilgrims to stick to umbrellas, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid exposure to direct sun during the hottest hours of the day whenever possible.

Muslim pilgrims use umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun as they arrive to perform the stoning ritual in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, June 18, 2024. AP


Meanwhile, Saudi authorities have boosted their efforts in fighting unregistered Hajj and officials said that they have cleared over 300,000 pilgrims from Mecca due to not possessing Hajj permits.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is obligatory on able-bodied Muslims who have the financial means to perform it.

Many Muslims aspire to fulfil their dream of performing Hajj, where they touch the holy Kaaba, visit the Prophet Muhammad's grave in Medina, and ascend Mount Arafat, retracing the footsteps of the Prophet from over 1,400 years ago.

However, with substantial Hajj expenses nowadays, it has increasingly become inaccessible for many people.

Many Muslim scholars have urged Muslims worldwide to abide by the Saudi measures in organizing Hajj to ensure their safety and to avoid hurting others. They also advised people to refrain from unregistered Hajj.

According to Saudi authorities, around 1.8 million pilgrims, including 1.6 million from abroad, perform the Hajj annually. Over the past few days, many pilgrims have been reported missing.

Search for missing

The Egyptian consulate in Jeddah has formed an operations chamber operating round the clock to receive phone calls on (00966565702002) from citizens who lost contact with their relatives in the pilgrimage sites during this Hajj season, said the foreign ministry yesterday.

The foreign ministry added that it “is exerting intensive efforts, in coordination with the Saudi authorities, to follow up on the search for Egyptian citizens missing while performing the Hajj rituals.”

Egypt’s tourism Hajj mission reported on Tuesday that it has managed to locate 142 lost Egyptian pilgrims, while one is still missing, according to the Egyptian state’s news agency MENA.

According to media figures, around 56,000 Egyptian pilgrims are performing Hajj this year.

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