US couple ‘walked for hours’ before dying in Hajj heat

Saudi Arabia has announced that 1.8 million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj [Getty]

A Maryland couple, originally from Sierra Leone, tragically succumbed to heatstroke during their pilgrimage to Mecca, having walked for over two hours in extreme temperatures that sometimes surpassed 122F (50C).

Alhaji Alieu Dausy Wurie, 71, and Haja Isatu Wurie, 65, had been missing for days after they lost contact with their daughter after paying $11,500 payment, each, for the pilgrimage they had dreamed of embarking on for their whole lives.

Despite the excitement and significance of the Hajj for them, the services they received were inadequate, their daughter, Saida Wurie, told the BBC.

The tour group had failed to deliver on many promised essentials, such as adequate water and food, despite the intense heat.

“They went a few days having to find food for themselves, even though the package was supposed to come with meals every day,” she told the British broadcaster.

With minimal supplies in the smouldering heat, the couple told Wurie they were “taking it a day at a time” and making sure they stayed hydrated.

The grieving daughter are now trying to locate their bodies and personal effects in Saudi Arabia, and resolve unanswered questions regarding the circumstances of their passing.

The incident highlights ongoing concerns about the safety of pilgrims, especially those without proper permits, as a heatwave hits the region.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that more than 1,300 people had died during the Hajj pilgrimage with most of the deceased not having 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.

The dead came from more than 10 countries stretching from the US to Indonesia, and some governments are continuing to update their totals. Egyptians accounted for 658 deaths – 630 of them unregistered pilgrims, according to reports.

Saudi media had previously reported the health ministry’s repeated warnings to pilgrims to avoid spending too long in direct sun and that the extreme heat posed a risk to their health. 

Saudi Arabia has announced that 1.8 million pilgrims were taking part in the Hajj.

In 2023, media outside the kingdom reported that 203 people died during the Hajj, which took place in late June that year.

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