Iraqis pack hospitals after dust storm engulfs Baghdad for second time in a week
A dust storm blanketed Iraq again on Tuesday, sending people to hospital with breathing difficulties and leading airports to suspend flights.
It follows a similar storm that blew over the country late last week and left dozens hospitalised with respiratory problems.
The latest weather event cast an orange hue over the capital Baghdad, where it severely restricted visibility and coated buildings and cars in dust.
More horrific weather here in #Baghdad. This is just the latest dust storm to hit #Iraq in a matter of weeks. 100s people have been hospitalised in past storms with breathing difficulties & today state media reported Baghdad airport has cancelled flights. https://t.co/xlqszMz0qv pic.twitter.com/sjaiO5PL4J— Lizzie Porterلِيزي بورتر (@lcmporter) April 12, 2022
Pedestrians wore disposable masks to avoid inhaling the particles, AFP journalists said.
"People have been hospitalised with breathing difficulties, but most cases are minor," health ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr told AFP.
Dozens of flights were suspended in Baghdad and the Shia holy city of Najaf during the morning, before flights resumed in the afternoon when conditions improved, airport sources said.
While sand and dust storms are not uncommon during the Iraqi spring, they are expected to become even more frequent "due to drought, desertification and declining rainfall", said the director of Iraq's meteorological office, Amer al-Jabri.
Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with record low rainfall and high temperatures in recent years.
Experts have said these factors threaten social and economic disaster in the war-scarred country.
In November, the World Bank warned that Iraq could suffer a 20 percent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.