Another sandstorm that descended yesterday on climate-stressed Iraq sent at least 4,000 people to hospital with breathing problems and led to the closure of airports, schools and public offices across the country.
It is the eighth dust storm since mid-April to hit Iraq, which has been battered by soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall linked to climate change.
The last one earlier this month led to the death of one person, while more than 5,000 others had to be hospitalised for respiratory problems.
Yesterday, a thick cloud of dust enveloped the capital Baghdad in an orange glow and blanketed many other cities including the shrine city of Najaf to the south, and Sulaimaniyah in the northern Kurdish autonomous region, AFP correspondents said. Yellow and orange sand covered building roofs, cars and even crept into homes.
Authorities in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad, ordered government offices to shut.
But health facilities remained open to assist those most at risk, including the elderly and people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases and heart ailments.
At least 4,000 people were admitted to hospital needing treatment for respiratory difficulties, health ministry spokesman Seif al-Badr said, adding that all cases “received the necessary medical care”. AFP correspondents saw around 20 patients, most of them elderly men, at Baghdad’s Sheikh Zayed Hospital.
In April, an environment ministry official warned that Iraq could face “272 days of dust” a year over the next two decades.
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