Maryland Pilgrims Die During Hajj in Saudi Heat

( – A couple from Maryland died when they experienced an extreme heatwave while on a Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The daughter of 65-year-old Isatu Tejan Wurie and 71-year-old Alieu Dausy Wurie is searching for the bodies of her parents. The couple’s daughter, Saida, last heard from them on June 15 when they were waiting for transport to Mount Arafat.

The Bowie residents had long dreamed of completing the pilgrimage to Mecca, which attracts several million people each year and is classed as mandatory for Muslims capable of completing it. The couple reportedly walked in the intense heat for several hours, and Saida claimed that the tour group failed to provide her parents with sufficient water or food as promised.

Saida commented that her parents, who were from Sierra Leone, had been “beyond excited” and looked forward to the pilgrimage their whole lives. The temperature at the site exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and the death toll was initially reported to be 550. By June 24, the number of deaths reported was over 1,300.

The cause of death of the pair was logged as natural causes, which can include heat stroke. Saida is attempting to find her parents’ bodies after being informed by the Consulate General’s office that they had been buried. She and others had asked the Saudi government to hold onto the bodies so that they may be given a suitable burial. Reported temperatures at the holy site ranged between 109 degrees and 113 degrees Fahrenheit through the week.

According to Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel, the Saudi Health Minister, 83% of the 1,301 people who died were unauthorized pilgrims. He clarified that they had been buried in Mecca. Over 660 Egyptians were among those who died on the pilgrimage, most of whom were unauthorized pilgrims according to Cairo officials. A total of 16 travel agencies that were helping unauthorized pilgrims reach Mecca had their licenses revoked by Egyptian authorities.

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