Iraq on Sunday was yet again covered in a thick sheet of orange as it experienced the latest in a series of dust storms that have become increasingly common.
Dozens were hospitalized with respiratory problems in the center and west of the country.
A thick layer of orange dust settled across streets and vehicles, seeping into people’s homes in the capital of Baghdad.
Flights were grounded due to poor visibility at airports serving Baghdad and the Shiite holy city of Najaf, with the phenomenon expected to continue into yesterday, the Iraqi Meteorological Organization said.
“Flights have been interrupted at the airports of Baghdad and Najaf due to the dust storm,” Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Jihad al-Diwan said.
Visibility was cited at less than 500m, with flights expected to resume once the weather improved.
Hospitals in Najaf received 63 people experiencing respiratory problems as a result of the storm, a health official said, adding that the majority had left after receiving appropriate treatment.
Another 30 hospitalizations were reported in the mostly desert province of Anbar in the west of the country.
Iraq was hammered by a series of such storms last month, grounding flights in Baghdad, Najaf and Arbil, and leaving dozens hospitalized.
Amer al-Jabri of the Iraqi Meteorological Organization previously said that the weather phenomenon is expected to become increasingly frequent “due to drought, desertification and declining rainfall.”
Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, having witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures over the past few years.
Experts have said that these factors threaten to bring social and economic disaster to the country.
In November last year, the World Bank said that Iraq could experience a 20-percent decline in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.
Early last month, Iraqi Ministry of the Environment official Issa al-Fayad had said that Iraq could face “272 days of dust” per year in coming decades, the Iraqi News Agency reported.
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