An unseasonal dust storm has swept through the Middle East, blanketing Beirut and Damascus, killing at least two and hospitalizing hundreds in Lebanon, and halting airstrikes in neighboring Syria where five people have reportedly died due to the freak weather.
People across the region have posted stunning pictures online of huge clouds of dust that speak for themselves. The deadly sandstorm is so large it can be seen from space. NASA has shared an image of the raging dust and sand, which caused breathing problems, reduced visibility in parts of Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, Israel and Iraq and even forced school closures.
— Issam (@Issam4Gaza) September 9, 2015
Image of a dust storm in the Middle East captured by the Moderare Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on board the Aqua satellite on 8
Image of a dust storm in the Middle East captured by the Moderare Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on board the Aqua satellite on 8 September 2015.
"It is unbelievable. This must be some test," Mansour, a Damascus resident, told AP. "It's hot. Temperatures are high and above that we have this dusty weather! It is something beyond reasonable. Enough please!"
The Lebanese Health Ministry said that 750 people had been hospitalized with respiratory problems, and asked local residents to go outside only with face masks.
Syria's state-run news agency SANA reported that three people in the central Hama province had died in the sandstorm, adding that there were "over 3580 cases of asphyxia, dyspnea, breathlessness and asthma were reported by directors of health departments in several provinces."
— Marson Diego (@marsondiego) September 9, 2015
Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP: "There were four [killed] in Deir Ezzor, including a child and an elderly woman, as well as another child in Hama province and a person in Daraa." According to the group, there were fewer airstrikes in Syria on Monday due to the storm.
In Jordan, schools either shut down or sent children home early, AP reported. In Cyprus, aircraft had to be diverted to Pathos from Larnaca’s airport after visibility fell to 500 meters.
— nicky aerts (@peacenick3) September 9, 2015
"We have had sandstorms before, but not of this intensity. It's very rare for this time of year, too, and it's covering the entire region," a Cypriot metrological office official told Reuters.
Israeli health authorities have warned the elderly, the young and pregnant women not to stay outdoors for prolonged periods of time, with especially large levels of dust registered in Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Judea region in the West Bank, Haaretz reported.
— Jad Lian (@jadlbfi) September 9, 2015