A large dust storm swept over parts of Iraq on May 16, 2022, grounding flights at Baghdad Airport and closing some schools, businesses and government offices. This is the 8th strong dust storm to hit the country since mid-April.
The latest in the line of storms affected 7 of Iraq’s 18 provinces and comes just 10 days after another massive dust storm forced more than 5 000 people to seek medical assistance.1
The education ministry and other offices declared a day off for local government institutions, with the exception of health services.
According to medical officials, hundreds of people across Baghdad and southern cities went to hospitals with breathing difficulties.2
Baghdad International Airport said that it was closing its airspace and halting all flights until further notice because of low visibility.
Najaf and Sulaimaniyah airports were also closed for the day.
“In general, according to statistics, the average rainfall in the country in the last 50 years has been 270 mm (10.6 inches), which has decreased by 230 mm (9 inches),” said Ahad Vazifeh, head of the national center for drought and crisis management. “In other words, over the past 5 decades, the average rainfall has dropped by 40 mm (1.6 inches).”3
The precipitation fluctuates, Vazifeh added. “For example, last year the annual rainfall was 134 mm (5.2 inches) and this year it has increased by 156 mm (6.1 inches) compared to the previous year.”
“In addition to drought, we are also experiencing the issue of rising water consumption, and even if the rainfall was normal, there would still be a shortage of water.”
1 Severe dust storm hits Iraq, forcing more than 5 000 people to seek medical assistance – The Watchers – May 6, 2022
2 Iraq hit by another sandstorm, Baghdad airport closes airspace – Al Jazeera – May 16, 2022
3 Has Iran entered a 30-year dry spell? – Tehran Times – May 16, 2022
Featured image credit: NOAA-20/VIIRS, The Watchers. Acquired on May 16, 2022
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