Sandstorms sweep across Syria, Iraq

Sandstorms sweep across Syria, Iraq

Sandstorms once again raged across the Middle East on Sunday, as deadly dust storms ravaging the the region on a near-weekly basis since April.

A "terrifying dust storm" fell across Erbil yesterday, local observers reported. Social media users shared videos of dusty skies while local authorities temporarily suspended flights due to the lack of visibility.

Over the past months, similar storms caused suffocation symptoms among thousands of people across Iraq and Syria, occasionally killing people. They devastated several displacement camps and damaged electricity and communication networks in rural provinces.

Iraq was heavily affected, with at least nine major sandstorms hitting the country since April, causing schools and airports to be shut down and thousands of people hospitalised with respiratory health issues. Several Iraqi airports temporarily halted flights in anticipation of some of the storms. 

Both countries are already battling rampant desertification. They are also among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which is expected to lead to less rainfall and more frequent and intense sandstorms in the region.

Experts and officials have warned of impending disaster if Iraqi authorities don’t urgently adopt environmental plans. Iraq's environment ministry recently warned that Iraq could face at least 300 dusty days a year by 2050.