Severe sandstorm ravages Iraq again as thousands hospitalised
A heavy sandstorm ravaged Iraq once again on Monday, causing the closure of state schools and offices and halting flights at Baghdad, Najaf and Sulaimaniyah International Airports.
Iraq has witnessed at least one sandstorm per week in the past few weeks, described by locals as the worst such spate in living memory.
According to the United Nations, Iraq is the fifth most vulnerable country in the world affected by the climate crisis. The country is also suffering from a severe drought due to low rainfalls as well as the building of dams by neighbouring Iran and Turkey.
Extreme temperatures and a lack of long term environmental plans has also led to the drying up of lakes, farmland and desertification of large parts of the country.
So far, more than 2,000 cases of suffocation have been recorded in Iraq, Saif al-Badr, spokesperson of the Iraq health ministry was quoted by Iraq’s state news agency as saying.
The storm has severely hit the capital city of Baghdad as well as southern and northern provinces.
“The visibility is less than 100 meters now, and we have issued precautions for drivers at the highways to limit speed. We also have cautioned those who have breathing health issues, they should stay at home,” Hassan Ali, director of Kirkuk meteorological told The New Arab in a phone call.
Due to the low visibility, flights at the international airports of Baghdad, Najaf, and Sulaimaniyah were halted to further notice, local media reported.
On Monday afternoon, Iraqi state media announced the resumption of flights at Baghdad International Airport.
Iraqi authorities have declared a day off for local government institutions, including the education ministry in Baghdad, Kirkuk and several other provinces, except for the health ministry which was on high alert.
Iraqi meteorological services said the storm will likely end by late Monday.