Iraq sandstorm forces closure of airports, schools and public administrations
The Alarabiya English reported, citing the AFP, Iraqi officials said that another sandstorm descended Monday (May 16) on the country forcing the closure of airports, schools, universities and public administrations across the country.
It is the eighth duststorm since mid-April to hit Iraq, which has been battered by soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall linked to climate change.
The last one earlier this month led to the death of one person while 5,000 others had to be hospitalized for respiratory problems.
AFP correspondents said that on Monday a thick cloud of dust enveloped the capital Baghdad in an orange glow and blanketed many other cities including the Shiite shrine city of Najaf to the south, and Sulaimaniyah, in the northern Kurdish autonomous region.
Yellow and orange sand covered building roofs, cars and even crept into homes.
State-run INA news agency reported, it drastically reduced visibility to just 300 meters (yards) at Baghdad airport, prompting authorities to close airspace and halt flights.
The agency said, airports in Najaf and Sulaimaniyah were also closed for the day.
Authorities in seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces, including Baghdad, ordered government offices to shut.
Health units across the country remained open, however, as authorities warned that the most at risk were the elderly and people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases and heart ailments.
Schools nationwide were also shuttered and end of year exams postponed to Tuesday. Universities also delayed exams.
Weather services said, the latest sandstorm was expected to gradually dissipate by Monday evening.