The world's largest annual religious pilgrimage started on Wednesday as 2.5 million Muslims massed at the holy city of Mecca for the hajj. A sea of pilgrims from all over the world surrounded the kaaba shrine inside Mecca's Grand Mosque for dawn prayers Wednesday.
Four pilgrims, all of them already suffering from other health problems, had died from swine ahead of the official start of hajj rites. Proven and suspected infections from the A(H1N1) flu amid hajj participants only number 67, Saudi health ministry spokesman Dr. Khaled Marghlani told AFP.
According to Marghlani, the threat of heavy rain in Mecca could raise the health risks for pilgrims.