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Deadly sandstorm hits Middle East

By Editor   |   08 September 2015   |   11:39 pm  

A general view of Bourj-Hammoud neighborhood in Beirut during a sandstorm, in Lebanon …yesterday       PHOTO: REUTERS/Alia Haj

A general view of Bourj-Hammoud neighborhood in Beirut during a sandstorm, in Lebanon …yesterday PHOTO: REUTERS/Alia Haj

AN unseasonal sandstorm swept across the Middle East yesterday, covering Beirut and Damascus with a blanket of yellow dust, sending hundreds of people to hospitals with breathing difficulties and causing the deaths of two women, officials said.

Reduced visibility prompted the Syrian government to call off air strikes against rebel fighters in a central province, local media reported, and threatened a planned protest by Lebanese activists over the government’s inability to deal with the country’s rampant trash crisis.

The storm also hit Jordan, Israel and Egypt. In Jordan, schools shut down or cut their days short.

The sandstorm reached Beirut yesterday, a day after it engulfed eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. People, especially those with health issues, were advised to stay indoors while many of those who ventured onto the streets donned surgical masks.

The Lebanese Health Ministry said 750 people suffered breathing problems across the country, and that two women died because of the sandstorm, without providing details. Two boats set adrift were rescued by coast guard, the National News Agency said. Airport officials reported some flight delays.

Lebanese authorities warned residents against burning trash that has piled up on Beirut streets this summer, sparking a political crisis and daily protests.

Lucien Bourjeili, one of the protest organizers, said the bad weather may prevent some people from taking to the streets in a major protest planned today, though “this movement doesn’t depend on the weather … or one day.”

In the Syrian capital, Damascus, the head of a major hospital, Adeeb Mahmoud, said over 1,200 people, including 100 children, had been treated for breathing problems since the night before.



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