SULAIMANI (ESTA) — More than 200 people have been hospitalized in Kirkuk and Garmian due to respiratory problems caused by a dust storm, Esta Media Network reporter said on Monday.
Esta’s reporter in Kirkuk said 170 people were admitted to hospital from 5 p.m. on Sunday until Monday morning.
In Garmian, 32 people were hospitalized, the reporter in the administration said.
Iraq was yet again covered in a thick sheet of orange as it suffered the latest in a series of dust storms that have become increasingly common.
Flights were grounded due to poor visibility at airports serving the capital Baghdad and the Shia holy city of Najaf.
It is expected to continue into Monday, according to the weather service, AFP reported.
Visibility was cited at less than 500 meters (550 yards), with flights expected to resume once weather improves, Baghdad airport said in a statement on Sunday.
Iraq was hammered by a series of such storms in April, grounding flights and leaving dozens hospitalised with respiratory problems.
Amer al-Jabri, of Iraq’s meteorological office, previously told AFP that the weather phenomenon is expected to become increasingly common “due to drought, desertification and declining rainfall”.
Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, having already witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures in recent years.
Experts have said these factors threaten to bring social and economic disaster in the war-scarred country, according to AFP.
In November, the World Bank warned that Iraq could suffer a 20-percent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.
In early April, environment ministry official Issa al-Fayad had warned that Iraq could face “272 days of dust” a year in coming decades, according to the state news agency INA, AFP reported.
The ministry said the weather phenomenon could be confronted by “increasing vegetation cover and creating forests that act as windbreaks”.