Sandstorms are ravaging parts of the Middle East across from Baghdad to other major cities. Iraq, as the main source of the grit, has received the hardest hit.
Major parts of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and, less severely, Iran have been engulfed in sandstorms during the recent days. Thousands of people have been hospitalized, and flights have been canceled in certain areas.
On Tuesday, brilliant orange sky and a dense mist of dust greeted residents from Baghdad to Riyadh and Tehran. This was the most recent in a string of near-consecutive sandstorms in 2022. Sandstorms have perplexed people and alarmed scientists and politicians, who attribute the phenomenon to climatic changes and lax government management.
Sandstorms are common in warm months of the year, as they are fueled by seasonal winds. However, since two months ago, Iraq has experienced sandstorms almost every week.
Iraqi officials announced last Monday a national holiday to prevent open-door activities. They advised government employees and civilians to stay at home ahead of the region’s intense storm. A local report in Iraq says, the Health apparatus has stored oxygen canisters at various centers in hard-hit districts.
Hospitals have admitted over 1,000 individuals around the country due to breathing difficulties, according to Iraqi Ministry of Health. “It’s a region-wide issue, but each country has a different degree of vulnerability and weakness,” an expert and Iraqi professor said.
Land degradation, compounded by record-low rains, is increasing the severity of storms in Iraq, among others in the region. The damage is substantially doubled in a low-lying area with many deserts.
Iraq has lost more than 70% of its greenery due to almost two decades of mismanagement of water and urbanization. That is why Iraqis complain about sandstorms in their areas more than their neighbors.
Sandstorms; Across the Middle East
Syria has a better condition, but still far from desirable. As the sandstorm slammed Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which at Iraqi borders. The country put the medical services on high alert. Three people lost their lives as the consequence of a severe storm in the area earlier in May.
A violent sandstorm enveloped Kuwait, turning the skies vivid orange color. Kuwait International Airport has grounded all aircraft due to the dust, the same practice it enforced during the same month before. The other storm drove all educational and official center to close few weeks ago.
Riyadh was also hit by the second major sandstorm in dew days. In a gloomy cloud, it hid renowned structures. Officials advised drivers to travel cautiously. During the past week, emergency rooms around the city were overwhelmed with over 1,300 people complaining of difficulty breathing.
Tehran also closed schools and government services today due to a sandstorm that blanketed the city. South-eastern regions in Iran, near Iraqi borders, received the harshest blow having to close offices and schools for consecutive days.
Hundreds of aircraft were canceled or rescheduled in western provinces of Iran. The foreign flights to dust-stricken cities were also called off by Iran and other major airlines. The condition may also impact the health condition of the people in the long run.
The criticism for sandstorms and severe poor air quality has grown. Changing climate, drought, and regional mishandling of water supplies, according to a leading expert in Iran, are to blame for the rise in must storms. Many countries in the region have drained ponds for cultivation, a typical technique in the region that produces dust. Iraq, under foreign influence, may have had the main role in processes the led to the present condition.