Maryland couple among hundreds who died pilgrimage to Mecca

A couple from Maryland were among the more than 1,300 people who died during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Democratic Senate candidate Angela Alsobrooks announced Sunday.

Alhaji Alieu Dausy and Haja Isatu Wurie died while on the Hajj pilgrimage due to extreme heat, Alsobrooks said. Haja Isatu Wurie was a volunteer for her Senate campaign.

“Haja Isatu Wurie was an incredibly active member of our community. She was involved in several community organizations, making transformational impacts that were felt both locally and globally,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their families during this difficult time. Their loss is profound, and they will be deeply missed.”

The Saudi health minister announced Sunday that more than 1,300 people died during the Hajj. Temperatures hit a high of 125 degrees during the peak of the five-day pilgrimage, which began June 14 and centered on the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi officials said 1.86 million people performed the Hajj this year. The pilgrimage, considered one of the pillars of Islam, is a required rite at least once during a Muslim’s lifetime.

About half of the deaths, at least 630 people, were Egyptians, an Egyptian Cabinet official told The Associated Press. 

The fatalities also included 165 pilgrims from Indonesia, 98 from India and dozens more from Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Malaysia, according to an AP tally. 

Causes of death were not made public, but most are believed to have died of complications related to the heat. AP reported that its journalists witnessed many pilgrims passing out and collapsing during the Hajj.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) estimated that more than half of the deaths were unregistered pilgrims, citing a Saudi official. Unregistered pilgrims do not have access to cooling infrastructure and other amenities to survive the extreme temperatures. 

Saudi officials expelled tens of thousands of unregistered pilgrims from Mecca, though AFP reported that about 400,000 unregistered pilgrims performed the Hajj this year.

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