Baghdad, May 16, 2022 (AFP) – Iraqis woke up this Monday (16) to a new sandstorm that took more than 4,000 people to hospitals for respiratory problems and forced the closure of airports and public administrations, as well as the suspend exams in schools and universities.
This morning, the city’s roofs, cars parked on the streets and even the furniture in the houses were covered in a thin layer of ocher sand, AFP journalists found. The thick cloud of dust made it difficult to see just a few feet away.
At least “4,000 cases of suffocation” have been reported in hospitals, Health Ministry spokesman Seif al Badr said in a statement.
Due to a “visibility of 300 meters”, the Baghdad airport authority announced “the closure of airspace and the interruption of traffic at the airport” throughout the day, the official news agency INA reported.
The airports in Najaf (south) and Suleimaniya (north) were also closed during the day, the same source added.
At least seven of the country’s 18 provinces announced the closure of public offices, except in the case of the health sector.
All schools in the country have been closed, and tests have been postponed to Tuesday, the Ministry of Education announced.
The last storm of this type caused respiratory problems in a part of the population, left one dead, and more than 5,000 people had to receive medical attention in hospitals.
The storm will gradually dissipate starting Monday night, according to the weather service.
Since mid-April, there have been eight similar storms in Iraq, considered one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification.
To fight this phenomenon, the authorities propose to plant forests that act as windbreaks.
tgg / bfi / meb / zm / tt / ap