The city of Baghdad was engulfed by a dust storm on Thursday (May 5), the latest in a series of storms that have become an increasingly common sight in the country.
Dozens were hospitalized with respiratory issues, as the thick orange smog swept through the country, decreasing visibility, and bringing air traffic to a half for a few hours at the storm’s peak.
Iraqi residents believe that the cause of this storm is decreased rainfall and droughts.
“This dust is due to lack of rain, three years without rain, so the dust accumulates… I work as a coffee vendor, I hold the coffee pot in my hand and it all becomes covered in dust, no one wants to drink it anymore,” said 70-year-old Qasem Abu Mohammad.
More than 90 people have been registered in the emergency ward of the Sheikh Zayed hospital over the past few days, said ward manager Dr. Muhaimen Abdulrida. Many received oxygen and were subsequently discharged.
Dust storms have become a more frequent occurrence in Iraq, with experts blaming this on climate change and mismanagement of land and water.
On this year’s World Water Day on March 22, U.N. Iraq Special Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said water shortages have taken a toll on the country.
“Lower precipitation, water shortages, salinisation of soils and water, ineffective management of resources and population growth have all taken their toll [in Iraq]”, the U.N. official said in a statement published on twitter.