Another dust storm sweeps Iraq, leaving dozens hospitalized and flights suspended

(ORDO NEWS) — Iraq was once again covered in a thick layer of orange dust as it weathered the latest series of increasingly frequent dust storms.

Dozens of people have been hospitalized with respiratory problems in the center and west of the country.

A thick layer of orange dust settled on streets and cars, seeping into people’s homes in the capital Baghdad.

Flights have been suspended due to poor visibility at airports serving Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf, a phenomenon that will last until Monday, according to the meteorological service.

“Flights were interrupted at the airports of Baghdad and Najaf due to a dust storm,” civil aviation authority spokesman Jihad al-Diwan said.

Visibility was listed at less than 500 meters and flights are expected to resume as soon as the weather improves.

Najaf hospitals admitted 63 people suffering from respiratory problems caused by the storm, a health official said, adding that most of them left the hospital after receiving appropriate treatment.

Another 30 hospitalized were registered in Anbar province, located in the west of the country, mostly in the desert.

In April, Iraq was hit by a series of similar storms, resulting in the suspension of flights in Baghdad, Najaf and Arbil, and dozens of people were hospitalized.

Amer al-Jabri, a spokesman for the Iraqi meteorological office, said earlier that the weather event will become more frequent “due to drought, desertification and reduced rainfall.”

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

Experts said that these factors threaten social and economic catastrophe in the war-torn country.

In November, the World Bank warned that climate change could see Iraq’s water resources shrink by 20% by 2050.

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

The ministry said that this weather phenomenon can be combated by “increasing vegetation cover and creating forests that act as windbreaks.”

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