Iraq has been hit by its eighth sandstorm since mid-April, leaving hundreds of locals hospitalized and flights delayed, on Monday. The country’s capital Baghdad and southern cities were engulfed by the red haze, thereby reducing visibility to just a few hundred feet.
According to media reports, hundreds have been hospitalized after facing breathing problems while many schools and offices remained shut on Monday.
After the seventh severe dust storm on May 5, over 5,000 people were hospitalized while one person died.
In Baghdad alone, 2,000 cases of suffocation were reported according to the official Iraqi News Agency.
On May 15, another storm passing through the country left dozens of people hospitalized and delayed several flights serving Baghdad and the holy city Najaf.
While dust storms are common in the country, an environment ministry official warned that Iraq could face ‘272 days of dust’ a year in the coming decades due to drought, desertification, and declining rainfall.
In the past few years, Iraq has recorded very low rainfall and summer temperatures above 50 degrees Celcius due to which the Tigris and Euphrates rivers could dry up within two decades, according to the Water Resources Ministry. The two rivers provide most of the country’s surface water.
Sandstorm hits Syria, 9 dead
After sweeping through Syria’s Deir Ez Zor city and leaving nine dead on Sunday, the sandstorm was expected in regions of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait according to the Arab Regional Weather Centre.