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‘They saved their whole lives for this’: American woman’s heartbreak after parents’ death on Hajj



CNN

Saida Wuri said her parents’ lifelong dream was to participate in the Hajj, which brings Muslims from around the world to Saudi Arabia every year.

They spent their “life savings” – a total of $23,000 – on an all-inclusive travel package through a Maryland-registered tour company.

“They saved their whole lives for this,” he told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield.

But the journey of a lifetime turned tragic this week when it was learned that his mother, Isatu Tejan Vouri, 65, and father, Aliu Dousi Vouri, 71, were among the hundreds of pilgrims who died. extreme temperature Covering the Persian Gulf country. More than 500 The number of confirmed deaths is feared to be over a thousand.

The Voorhees are US citizens from Bowie, Maryland. Ms. Woori recently retired as a head nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Prince George’s County, her daughter told CNN.

Speaking on CNN’s Whitfield on Saturday, Woori said he kept in close contact with his parents through family group chat while they were in Saudi Arabia. He said that it was during that chat that he came to know that the tour company did not provide proper transport facilities or credentials required to participate in the yatra. He said the group his parents were traveling with, which included 100 fellow pilgrims, did not have enough food and supplies for the five- to six-day journey to the pillar of Islam.

Woori believes her parents were “not properly prepared” for the trip by the tour operator and “didn’t get what they paid for” from the company. CNN has reached out to the travel agency for comment.

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Family photo

Z. Tejan Vuri and Aliyu Dousi Vuri.

When he heard from his parents on Saturday, June 15, his mother texted that they had already been waiting for hours for transport to take them to Mount Arafat. She believes they were in Mina at the time. The couple eventually opted to walk instead and sent a message to their daughter after they walked for more than two hours.

The couple later joined fellow pilgrims and others in their expedition group on Mount Arafat, where they gathered to pray and meditate at the holy site. After her father said they could not continue the journey and would stop along the way, one of their tour group contacted Saida Wuri and told her that her parents were missing on Mount Arafat. The man continued to the top of Mount Arafat, but was unable to find the couple when he descended.

Wuri received a death notification from the US embassy in Jeddah, which was received from the Saudi Ministry of Interior, saying his parents had died of “natural causes” on June 15. He was later advised by someone at the US Embassy that he had heat stroke. Considered to be a natural cause.

The Consulate General’s office told her that her parents were already buried, but could not tell her exactly where.

Now, Saida and her brothers are doing everything they can to get answers and find their parents’ grave.

“We have asked the Saudi government to keep the bodies to go to Saudi Arabia and at least give them a proper burial. [their] The children will be there and the bodies will be able to be identified,” he told Whitfield. “Unfortunately, they’re already buried.”

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Because she doesn’t speak Arabic and is unfamiliar with the area, she wants American diplomats to help her and her siblings find where their parents are buried and collect their belongings when they meet her on the ground. As of Saturday, he said, the envoys had not committed to meet him in person in Saudi Arabia.

The US State Department confirmed that “several US citizens have died in Saudi Arabia”, but declined to comment on any details about the Wuri family.

Extreme heat has been cited as a major factor behind the hundreds of deaths and injuries reported during this year’s Hajj. The holy city of Mecca, the center of the Hajj pilgrimage, hit a record high of 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday.

With high temperatures expected for this year’s gathering, the Saudi military deployed more than 1,600 personnel with medical units and 30 rapid response teams specifically for heat stroke. Another 5,000 health and first aid volunteers were also on duty.

Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images

A woman uses a battery-powered fan to cool a man lying on the ground during the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual, a symbol of the annual Haj pilgrimage, in Mina on June 16, 2024.

But CNN spoke to other Haj pilgrims who said the arrangements were inadequate. describes Fellow worshipers were seen passing by bodies covered in white cloth, unconscious.

As countries around the world continue to independently report the deaths of their nationals, the exact death toll is unclear and is expected to rise.

Concerns about illegal tour groups have also increased. Egypt announced the cancellation of the licenses of 16 travel companies that organize Hajj trips, state-run news agency Ahram Online reported.

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This is not the first time hundreds of pilgrims have died during the Hajj, which this year has attracted more than 1.8 million people. More than 700 people were killed in 2015 During rush hour in the Saudi Arabian city of Mina, just outside Mecca. In 2006, 363 people were killed in a stampede at Mina where pilgrims had gathered to participate in the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual. More than 200 people died last year.

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