Iraq sandstorms sends 1,000 to hospitals

sandstorm iraq
A traffic policeman directs traffic flow in the city of Nasiriyah in Iraq's southern Dhi Qar province on May 23, 2022 amidst a heavy dust storm. (Photo: AFP)
BAGHDAD — Iraq closed public buildings and temporarily shut airports Monday as another sandstorm — the ninth since mid-April — hit the country. More than 1,000 people were hospitalized across the nation with respiratory problems, health ministry spokesman Seif Al-Badr told AFP.اضافة اعلان

Flights were also grounded in neighboring Kuwait for a second time this month, as the region grapples with the increasingly frequent weather phenomenon. The Iraqi capital Baghdad was enveloped in a giant dust cloud that left usually traffic-choked streets largely deserted and bathed in eerie orange light, AFP correspondents said.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi ordered all work to cease in state-run institutions, except for health and security services, citing “poor climatic conditions and the arrival of violent sandstorms”. Air traffic was suspended at the international airports in Baghdad, Erbil, and Najaf, before flights resumed at Baghdad and Erbil.

Iraq is ranked as one of the world’s five most vulnerable nations to climate change and desertification. 

The environment ministry has warned that over the next two decades Iraq could endure an average of 272 days of sandstorms per year, rising to above 300 by 2050.

Iraq’s previous two sandstorms sent nearly 10,000 people to hospital with respiratory problems and killed one person.

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