RIYADH: Weather forecasters warned on Tuesday that more sandstorms were on the way after Riyadh was again shrouded in choking dust.
The National Center for Meteorology issued weather alerts for the Saudi capital, extending to the Madinah region and the governorates of Yanbu, Al-Rais and Yanbu Al-Nakhl. There will also be dust storms in AlUla and Khaybar.
“Dust particles in the north, center, and southern and interior regions will persist,” center spokesman Hussain Al-Qahtani told Arab News.
More than 1,200 people this month have gone to hospitals in the Kingdom suffering from breathing difficulties, but the phenomenon is region wide. Severe sandstorms have blanketed parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Kuwait for the past month. The storms have sent thousands to hospitals and resulted in at least one death in Iraq and three in eastern Syria.
Sandstorms are typical in late spring and summer, spurred by seasonal winds, but this year in Iraq they have occurred nearly every week.
The Iraqi Health Ministry stockpiled canisters of oxygen at facilities in hard-hit areas.
In Syria, medical departments were put on alert as the sandstorm hit the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Iran shut down schools and government offices in Tehran last week as a sandstorm swept the country.
It hit hardest in the southwest desert region of Khuzestan, where over 800 people sought treatment for breathing difficulties. Dozens of flights out of western Iran were canceled or delayed.
For the second time this month, Kuwait International Airport suspended all flights because of the dust. Video showed largely empty streets with poor visibility.
“It’s 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.