BAGHDAD (AP) — A sandstorm blanketed parts of the Middle East on Monday, including Iraq, Syria and Iran, sending people to hospitals and disrupting flights in some places.

It was the latest in a series of unprecedented nearly back-to-back sandstorms this year that have bewildered residents and raised alarm among experts and officials, who blame climate change and poor governmental regulations.

From Riyadh to Tehran, bright orange skies and a thick veil of grit signaled yet another stormy day Monday. Sandstorms are typical in late spring and summer, spurred by seasonal winds. But this year they have occurred nearly every week in Iraq since March.

Iraqi authorities declared the day a national holiday, urging government workers and residents to stay home in anticipation of the 10th storm to hit the country in the last two months. The Health Ministry stockpiled cannisters of oxygen at facilities in hard-hit areas, according to a statement.

The storms have sent thousands to hospitals and resulted in at least one death in Iraq and three in Syria's east.

“Its a region-wide issue but each country has a different degree of vulnerability and weakness,” said Jaafar Jotheri, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Al-Qadisiyah in Baghdad.

In Syria, medical departments were put on alert as the sandstorm hit the eastern province of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq, Syrian state TV said. Earlier this month, a similar storm in the region left at least three people dead and hundreds were hospitalized with breathing problems.

Dr. Bashar Shouaybi, head of the Health Ministry’s office in Deir el-Zour, told state TV that hospitals were prepared and ambulances were on standby. He said they have acquired an additional 850 oxygen tanks and medicine needed to deal with patients who have asthma.

Source link