THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Minister for Wakf and Haj pilgrimage V Abdurahiman has written to Centre that 13 Keralites have reportedly died amid scorching temperatures during this year’s pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and demanded its intervention to solve problems faced by pilgrims.
Reports said as many as 922 pilgrims died during this year’s pilgrimage as they faced high temperatures – Mecca recorded 51.8°C on Monday, and 47°C on Tuesday.At least 68 of the dead are feared to be Indians.
Saudi Arabia has not officially commented on the toll but one of its diplomats said an unspecified number of Indian pilgrims were missing. Several other countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia, also reported heat-related fatalities in the holy city.
In a letter addressed to the Union minister for minority affairs, Union minister for external affairs and Consulate General of India in Jeddah, Abdurahiman said 18,200 pilgrims had gone for the pilgrimage from Kerala this year. “There are reports that pilgrims faced great difficulties in Saudi Arabia. Many complaints have been received about negligence in activities of various mutawwifs (representatives of the agency appointed by the Saudi govt to look after Hajis),” he said.
Abdurahiman said from Jeddah airport, pilgrims had to wait for hours to get to Assisi, a settlement 30 km away. There are also complaints that pilgrims who arrived in Assisi were given poor accommodation and those who arrived on the same flight were accommodated in different places, the minister said.
A vehicle was made available after a 15- hour wait for pilgrims returning to Mina to perform the main haj rituals. Tents or other shelters were not available for many people who arrived in Mina. No food or water was given.
hey had to wait for up to 17 hours on the road to go to Arafa and many arrived very late for the stone-pelting ritual, he said. Abdurahiman said there were also complaints that the central govt and the central haj committee had not effectively intervened to resolve these issues. He asked the central government to immediately communicate with the Saudi govt to take precautions to avoid crises from next year.