A sandstorm has blanketed parts of the Middle East including Iraq, Syria, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia on Monday. AFP / AP
Gulf Today Report
A massive sandstorm blanketed the Rafha governorate in Saudi Arabia on Monday morning. The dust storm formed in the Iraqi desert, and entered the State of Kuwait and northern Saudi Arabia.
Iraq closed public buildings and temporarily shut airports on Monday as another sandstorm — the ninth since mid-April — hit the country.
More than 1,000 people were hospitalised across the nation with respiratory problems, health ministry spokesman Seif Al Badr told AFP.
Flights were also grounded in neighbouring Kuwait for a second time this month, as the region grapples with the increasingly frequent weather phenomenon.
The National Centre of Meteorology had issued, through the early warning system, several alerts about the expected weather conditions during the coming hours in the Eastern Province, Qassim, Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, North, Hail, Najran, Al Jawf and Tabuk.
An aerial view of a massive dust storm advancing into Kuwait City on Monday. AFP
Saudi authorities warned on Monday of persistent heavy sandstorm conditions until after nightfall in Riyadh and surrounding areas.
Experts predict the phenomenon will worsen as climate change warps regional weather patterns, further dries out and degrades soils and speeds up desertification across much of the Middle East.
On Monday morning, Iraq witnessed severe dust storms, which paralysed life and led to the closure of Baghdad International Airport and the disruption of studies, after the visibility reached 400 metres.
A view of a street in the Rafha governorate blanketed by sandstorm.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi ordered all work to cease in state-run institutions, except for health and security services, citing "poor climatic conditions and the arrival of violent sandstorms."
Air traffic was suspended at the international airports in Baghdad, Arbil and Najaf, before flights resumed in the capital and Arbil. Iraq is ranked as one of the world's five most vulnerable nations to climate change and desertification.
For his part, the Minister of Education, Ali Al Dulaimi, announced that it was decided to postpone the exams for sixth graders and unfinished classes on Monday, to the next day and on the same announced schedule, due to bad weather, according to local media.
He added that the measure came due to "weather forecasts of a dust storm, and in the interest of the safety of our students and students."
The Baghdad Airport Administration also issued a statement, saying: "The Baghdad International Airport administration would like to clarify to all our valued passengers and airlines operating at the airport, the closure of the airspace and the suspension of air traffic at the airport for this Monday, due to dust storms."
And she explained that "the visibility is up to 400 metres," noting that "passengers will be informed of the nature of any emergency developments due to the weather conditions affecting the country."
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