More than 1,300 pilgrims died during the hajj, say Saudi authorities

Saudi Arabia said Sunday that more than 1,300 faithful died during the hajj pilgrimage which took place during intense heat, and that most of the deceased did not have official permits.

"Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83 percent being unauthorised to perform hajj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort," the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

An AFP tally last week, based on official statements and reports from diplomats involved in their countries' responses, put the toll at more than 1,100.

Arab diplomats told AFP that Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths – 630 of them unregistered pilgrims.

Riyadh had not publicly commented on the deaths or provided its own toll until Sunday.

On Friday, however, a senior Saudi official gave AFP a partial toll of 577 deaths for the two busiest days of hajj: June 15, when pilgrims gathered for hours of prayers in the blazing sun on Mount Arafat, and June 16, when they participated in the "stoning of the devil" ritual in Mina.


The official also defended Riyadh's response, saying: "The state did not fail, but there was a misjudgement on the part of people who did not appreciate the risks."

The Saudi health minister, Fahd Al-Jalajel, on Sunday described management of the hajj this year as "successful", SPA reported.

Saudi officials have said 1.8 million pilgrims took part this year, a similar number to last year, and that 1.6 million came from abroad.

For the past several years the mainly outdoor rituals have fallen during the sweltering Saudi summer.

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