ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – Five people were killed and dozens suffocated in a fierce sandstorm that swept through several areas of Iraq on Monday.
Accompanied by rains, the storm struck Baghdad, Diyala, Babil, and Anbar, and reached a deadly intensity in Karbala and Najaf. Photos and videos posted on social media showcased instances of material damage to public and private property.
According to local health authorities, the total number of reported casualties stands at about 129, with Karbala and Najaf leading the numbers with 46 and 83 in each city, respectively.
The injuries ranged from suffocation and wounds due to the fall of billboards, trees, electricity wires, and others, witnesses and medical sources said. Health authorities in separate statements asserted that most of those who had been hospitalized were quickly treated and discharged shortly after being admitted.
Early Tuesday, IraqNow said that they had learned of a total of five deaths and 61 injuries. It also posted multiple photos of vehicles damaged by the storm and an electric pole almost knocked over by the strong winds.
With a vast and arid desert south and west of Iraq, such storms are commonplace in the country but seem to have increased in frequency in recent years. They occur mostly in the summer and early winter months as strong wind accumulate dust and sand and sail across rural areas until they reach urban settlements, where they can halt daily activities.
The Directorate of Civil Defense in a statement said it had mobilized rescue teams “due to the intensity of the storms that hit Baghdad and a number of provinces.” Such response teams were seen deployed in the streets in anticipation of an emergency.
During the past rain season, the country saw multiple bouts of extreme floods as a consequence of heavy rainfall, resulting overall in dozens of deaths and even more injuries.
Editing by Nadia Riva