Iraq shrouded in sand

A fisherman paddles his boat during a sandstorm in Iraq’s southern city of Basra on Monday.

The sandstorm that descended on climate-stressed Iraq sent at least 4,000 people to hospital with breathing problems and led to the closure of airports, schools and public offices across the country.

It is the eighth sandstorm since the middle of last month to hit the country, which has been experiencing soil degradation, intense droughts and low rainfall linked to climate change.

Dust and sand shrouding Baghdad and southern Iraqi cities have resulted in poor visibility.

Baghdad International Airport closed its airspace and halted all flights until further notice, while airports in Najaf and Sulaimaniyah were closed on Monday.

According to the United Nations, Iraq is the fifth-most vulnerable country in the world to the climate crisis. While it is susceptible to seasonal sandstorms, experts are concerned about their frequency in recent years, which they attribute to global warming.

The World Bank says by 2050, the country could suffer a 20 per cent drop in water resources.

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