Iraq sandstorm sends thousands to hospitals
Local Iraqi media reported that more than 5,000 Iraqis were rushed to hospitals with respiratory ailments as a result of a sandstorm, the seventh to hit the country in the last month.
The Iraqi Health Ministry said, on Thursday, that one person died, and over 5,000 people were treated in hospitals for respiratory ailments caused by a sandstorm, the seventh in a month.
Dust storms have become much more common in Iraq in recent years, owing to soil degradation and severe droughts exacerbated by climate change, which has resulted in rising average temperatures and sharply lower rainfall.
Residents in six of Iraq's 18 provinces awoke to a thick cloud of dust blanketing the sky, including Baghdad and the vast western region of Al-Anbar.
As the storm swept across Iraq, it shrouded Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf in ghostly orange clouds of choking dust.
BREAKING 🇮🇶Iraq🇮🇶 : Iraq's DustStorm kills 1 and 5,000 people suffers breathing problems.— Zaid Ahmd (@realzaidzayn) May 5, 2022
♦️One person died in iraq & more than 5,000 were treated in hospitals for respiratory ailments due to a sandstorm - Health Ministry pic.twitter.com/Ao83Jp8Y0X
Health Ministry spokesperson Seif al-Badr said, in a statement, that "one death has been recorded in Baghdad" and hospitals "have received no less than 5,000 cases so far."
“Those hit hardest are people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, and the elderly who suffer in particular from heart ailments”, he said.
Badr went on to say that the majority of the patients had been discharged and that the majority of the cases were of medium or low intensity.
Dust and sandstorms have always occurred in the Middle East, but they have become more frequent and intense in recent years, a trend that has been linked to increased dam construction, overgrazing, and deforestation.
Fine dust particles can cause health ailments such as asthma and cardiovascular disease, as well as spread bacteria and viruses, pesticides, and other toxins.
According to the official INA news agency, authorities in Al-Anbar and Kirkuk provinces, north of the capital, urged people "not to leave their homes."
Storms are expected to become more intense as climate change worsens, because higher temperatures and more irregular rainfalls dry out land faster, hastening desertification.
Storms also cause economic damage by reducing visibility, sometimes to near zero, closing airports and highways, and causing damage to buildings, vegetation, and solar panels.
According to Anas Qais, a health official cited by INA, hospitals in Al-Anbar province had received over 700 patients with breathing difficulties.
The central province of Salaheddin reported more than 300 cases, while Diwaniya and Najaf, south of Baghdad, each reported about 100 cases, the news agency reported.
It is worth mentioning that Iraq, despite its mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is classified as one of the world's five countries most vulnerable to climate change and desertification.