RIYADH: Sandstorms shrouded the Saudi capital in a blanket of dust on Wednesday, closing schools, sparking a health alert and causing havoc on busy roads.
Motorists were urged to exercise caution in the high winds, with the traffic department’s network of electronic screens warning of danger from poor visibility.
As blinding dust enveloped the city, drivers had to use headlights and early morning traffic on Riyadh’s major roads ground to a halt.
Swirling wind and dust forced some community schools in Riyadh to close, while others declared a “no activities day” following concerns for pupils’ health.
However, the sandstorm failed to halt air traffic in the capital, with flights taking off as scheduled, officials at the King Khalid International Airport said.
As the storm eased, visibility improved, but dust continued to shroud the city’s skyline throughout the day.
Riyadh’s civil defense department said the city had been fortunate to avoid any serious accidents in the difficult conditions.
Earlier, the department issued a citywide health alert, urging asthma patients and those with breathing problems to take medical precautions and avoid leaving their homes.
The city’s maximum temperature was 42 degrees Celsius with relative humidity of 17 percent. Clear skies and a maximum of 39 degrees Celsius are forecast for Thursday.