Iraqis woke up Monday to ocher-colored skies caused by a new sandstorm that forced the closure of airports and public administrations and the suspension of exams in schools and universities. The last storm of this type caused respiratory problems in part of the population, caused one death and more than 5,000 people had to receive medical attention in hospitals.
Early on Monday, the roofs of the city, the cars parked on the streets and even the furniture in the houses were covered in a layer of fine ocher sand. The thick cloud of dust prevented residents from seeing for a few meters.
“We have had 75 cases of people with respiratory problems,” said Ihsan Mawlood, an accident and emergency doctor at a Baghdad hospital. “We are treating patients with oxygen machines if necessary.”
Due to a “300 meter visibility”, the Baghdad airport authority announced “the closure of the airspace and the interruption of traffic at the airport” throughout the day, according to the official INA news agency.
Najaf airport (south) and Suleimaniya (north) were also closed during the day, the same source said. At least seven of the country’s 18 provinces announced the closure of public administrations, with the exception of health.
Also All schools in the country were closed and exams were postponed until Tuesday, the Education Ministry said. The storm will gradually dissipate starting Monday night, according to the weather service.
Since mid-April, Iraq has experienced eight storms and is considered one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and desertification.
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