In pics: One dead, 5000 suffer breathing problems as thick sandstorm hits Iraq

Written By: Wion Web Desk | Updated: May 06, 2022, 10:31 AM(IST)

Iraq was once again ravaged by sandstorms as one person died and 5,000 suffered breathing problems, according to the health ministry. This was the seventh sandstorm to affect the country in the last month and six out of the 18 Iraqi provinces have experienced great distress due to the sandstorms.

Seventh sandstorm in the past month

The sandstorm affected six out of the 18 Iraqi provinces and it resulted in the death of one person and around 5000 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the health ministry.


Struck hard

Earlier, thick layer of orange dust settled across streets and vehicles, seeping into people's homes in the capital Baghdad.

Iraq was hammered by a series of such storms in April, grounding flights in Baghdad, Najaf and Arbil and leaving dozens hospitalised.


Several hospitalised

Hospitals in Najaf received 63 people suffering from respiratory problems as a result of the storm, a health official said, adding that the majority had left after receiving appropriate treatment.

Another 30 hospitalisations were reported in the mostly-desert province of Anbar in the west of the country.


Flights delayed

Flights were grounded due to poor visibility at airports serving Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf, with the phenomenon expected to continue into Monday, according to the weather service.

"Flights have been interrupted at the airports of Baghdad and Najaf due to the dust storm," the spokesman for the civil aviation authority, Jihad al-Diwan, told AFP.

Visibility was cited at less than 500 metres (550 yards), with flights expected to resume once weather improves.


Climate change effect?

Amer al-Jabri, of Iraq's meteorological office, previously told AFP that the weather phenomenon is expected to become increasingly frequent "due to drought, desertification and declining rainfall".

Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, having already witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures in recent years.

Experts have said these factors threaten to bring social and economic disaster in the war-scarred country.


Adorning Orange

In November, the World Bank warned that Iraq could suffer a 20-percent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.

In early April, environment ministry official Issa al-Fayad had warned that Iraq could face "272 days of dust" a year in coming decades, according to the state news agency INA.

The ministry said the weather phenomenon could be addressed by "increasing vegetation cover and creating forests that act as windbreaks".


Storms might become more powerful as climate change worsens

Due to the increasing temperatures and more erractic rainfalls dry out land faster and acelerate desertification, storms are projected to become more powerful as the climate change worsens.

As per scientists, droughts are becoming more intense and frequent as a result of climate change. 

The sandstorms causes economic impacts since they reduce visiblity to near zero, shut down airports and highways, planst and damages buildings.


Two-third of the population is poor

As per the United Nations, nearly one third of Iraq's population is currenlty living in poverty. 


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