Egypt blames tour companies over Hajj deaths, cancels licenses

The Egyptian government has taken a firm stance against 16 tourism companies, revoking their operating licenses and referring them to the public prosecutor. 

These companies are accused of contributing to the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims during this year’s Haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

A crisis unit established to address the situation, led by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, made the announcement on Saturday. 

The statement highlighted the tragic toll, with medical and security sources estimating at least 530 Egyptian deaths. 

While 31 deaths were attributed to chronic illnesses, the crisis unit placed blame on the implicated travel agencies.

The accusations center on the companies’ alleged failure to provide proper services, including medical care, to the pilgrims. 

Authorities claim the companies sent pilgrims on personal visit visas instead of Haj visas, which restrict access to Mecca, the heart of the pilgrimage. 

This lack of proper authorization meant the deceased pilgrims were ineligible for medical assistance typically offered by Saudi authorities during the demanding rituals. 

The statement further criticizes these companies for inadequate accommodations, allegedly leading to exhaustion in scorching temperatures that surpassed 51 degrees Celsius.

The crisis unit acknowledged documented deaths among registered pilgrims, attributing them to pre-existing health conditions. 

However, the majority of fatalities were unregistered pilgrims who undertook the arduous journey under dangerous circumstances. 

This incident has cast a shadow over the annual pilgrimage, highlighting concerns about safety measures in the face of harsh weather conditions.

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