A massive dust storm blanketed Iraq again on Sunday, leaving the country blanketed in an orange rump in the latest in a series of similar storms since April.
Dozens of people had to be hospitalized in the center and west of the country for respiratory problems caused by the storm.
The layer of orange dust settled on the streets and vehicles, entering the homes of the inhabitants of the capital, Baghdad, and leaving the city with a post-apocalyptic landscape.
Strong, dust-laden winds also caused flights to be grounded due to poor visibility at airports, both in Baghdad and the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, and are expected to continue this week, according to the weather service.
“Flights have been interrupted at Baghdad and Najaf airports due to the dust storm”said the spokesman for the civil aviation authority, Jihad al-Diwan.
Visibility was cited at less than 500 meters, and flights are expected to resume once the weather improves.
Hospitals in Najaf received 63 people suffering from respiratory problems as a result of the storma health official said, adding that most had gone away after receiving proper treatment.
Another 30 hospitalizations were reported in the mostly desert Anbar province in the west of the country.
Iraq was hit by a series of such storms in April, grounding flights in Baghdad, Najaf and Arbil and leaving dozens of people hospitalized.
Amer al-Jabri of Iraq’s meteorological office said earlier that the weather phenomenon is expected to become more frequent. “due to drought, desertification and decreased rainfall.”
Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, as in recent years has witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures.
Experts have said these factors threaten to bring about social and economic disaster in the war-torn country.
In November 2021, the World Bank has warned that Iraq could suffer a 20% drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.
In early April, Issa al-Fayad, an official at the Environment Ministry, warned that Iraq could face “272 days of dust” a year for decades to come, according to the state news agency INA.
The ministry said the weather phenomenon could be addressed “increasing the vegetation cover and creating forests that act as windbreaks”.
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