BAGHDAD: One person died in Iraq and more than 5,000 were treated in hospitals on Thursday for respiratory ailments due to a sandstorm, the seventh in a month, the health ministry said.
"One death has been recorded in Baghdad" and hospitals "have received no less than 5,000 cases so far," health ministry spokesman Seif al Badr said in a statement, adding that the majority had since been discharged and most cases were of "medium or low intensity".
Residents of six of Iraq's 18 provinces, including Baghdad and the vast western region of Al Anbar, awoke once again to a thick cloud of dust blanketing the sky.
Authorities in Al Anbar and Kirkuk provinces, north of the capital, urged people to stay indoors. Calls were made via local mosques and social media for sufferers of respiratory problems to head to health centres. Hospitals in Al Anbar province had received hundreds of patients with breathing difficulties, said Anas Qais, a health official cited by INA.
The central province of Salaheddin reported high number of cases, while the central province of Diwaniya and the province of Najaf, south of Baghdad, each also recorded hundreds of cases, the news agency added.
Iraq is particularly vulnerable to climate change, having already witnessed record low rainfall and high temperatures in the past few years.
Experts have said these factors threaten to bring social and economic disaster in the war-scarred country.
In November, the World Bank warned Iraq could suffer a 20-per cent drop in water resources by 2050 due to climate change.
In early April, a government official warned Iraq could face "272 days of dust" a year in coming decades.
The environment ministry said the weather phenomenon could be addressed by "increasing vegetation cover and creating forests that act as windbreaks". -- AFP