Sixteen Bangladeshi hajj pilgrims died so far in Saudi cities in three weeks while nearly 19,000 others took various types of treatment at medical facilities in the Middle Eastern country since hajj flights started on July 24.
Of the 16, all but one are male and 14 died in Makkah and two others in Madina during the annual pilgrimage of the Muslims.
According to the Hajj office in Makkah until Thursday, the ages of the decease were between 54 and 75 years and the first death, of Khandakar ARM Youssuf, 75, Netrakona, was reported on July 28.
Apart from this, a hajj management meeting at hajj office in Makkah also revealed that 18,974 pilgrims took medication from the medical facilities in Saudi cities — Makkah and Madina.
Hajj officer Anwar Hossain could not be reached for his comment on what the main reason behind the death was and why such a large number of pilgrims received treatment.
Md Hafiz Uddin, the joint secretary (hajj) of the ministry, told New Age that the deaths were result of old-age complicacies and heat-stroke.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines, meanwhile, said one more flight, scheduled to carry 419 hajj pilgrims to Jeddah, was cancelled on Friday and another flight with the same capacity was delayed by 48 hours for shortage of aspirant pilgrims who were yet to complete either their formalities or did not obtain their visas.
So far, they had to operate flights with 15,000 seats vacant and cancelled 24 dedicated hajj flights.
This uncertainly already hit Biman Bangladesh Authorities despite that the national flag carrier earlier had withdrawn 21 flights from 10 international routes to add additional flights to the 181 dedicated Hajj flights to the Saudi cities.
Shakil Meraj, Biman general manager (public relations), said one of the flights, scheduled to fly on Friday noon with 419 pilgrims, was delayed until August 21 night due to passengers shortage.
The Biman authorities said that till 8:00am on Friday it ferried 76,376 pilgrims — 37,019 by Biman and Saudia by 39,357. The rest 50, 822 pilgrims would need to be ferried in nine days.
Both national flag carriers of Saudi Arab and Bangladesh were now ferrying average 3,200 pilgrims each day.
The existing flight frequency suggests that both the carriers will be able to carry around 30,000 pilgrims in nine days. But, Biman officials said it would ferry maximum number of passengers in the rest 87 flights and some others of Saudia Airlines.
Biman spokesperson Shakil Meraj said, ‘We are not clear about the situation. We have no indication of when we will get all of our passengers to ferry them to Saudi Arab…’
The Hajj office in Dhaka said on Friday that verification of 900 still was pending with Special Branch as visa processing closes on August 21 instead of August 17.
In response to an appeal for time extension on Thursday, the Saudi Arabian government gave Bangladesh another two days for submitting intending hajj pilgrims’ visa applications.
The Saudi embassy in Dhaka unofficially informed the religious affairs ministry that the prospective pilgrims could submit their passports for visas till Monday, said Hafij Uddin.
According to the ministry on Friday, the Saudi embassy in Dhaka issued 1,22,940 visas out of 1,27,198 people wished to perform Hajj under government and non-government arrangements.
Process for the rest 4,258 is still underway as they were yet to apply for their visas.
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