Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — A dust storm hit Iraqi governorates as well as the capital Baghdad on Sunday, while dozens of people were suffocated by the storm.
Iraqi authorities announced the suspension of air traffic at Baghdad and Najaf airports due to weather conditions, according to the Iraqi News Agency.
The authorities were forced to divert the landing routes of some planes, as the Iraqi Airways plane from Beirut arrived at Basra airport, as a result of its inability to land at Najaf airport.
A Transportation Ministry spokesman, Hussein Jalil, told the Iraqi News Agency (INA) that “the Iraqi Airways plane took off from Beirut and was unable to land at Najaf International Airport due to bad weather.”
Meanwhile, hospitals in Najaf and Anbar governorates received 93 suffocation cases due to the dust storm on Sunday, according to the official news agency.
The Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture linked the recurrence of sandstorms to the problem of desertification in the country.
The undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mithaq Abdul-Hussein, told the official agency that “there are 3 direct factors that affected and caused the recurrence of sandstorms and the increase in desertification, represented by the lack of rain, the lack of of the water resources of the downstream countries, and the reduction of the agricultural plan agriculture and sustainability of the green belt.