Clouds of sand cut visibility and forced thousands to seek medical treatment in Lebanon and neighbouring countries.

09 Sep 2015

Lebanon’s unprecedented and deadly sandstorm has forced the government to shut schools and public institutions over health concerns.

The sandstorm, which entered its third day on Wednesday, caused the deaths of four people in the country, while sending as many as 2,000 to hospitals due to breathing problems, a health ministry official told the DPA news agency.

Those who died, including a child, were from eastern and northern Lebanon, the parts of the country hardest hit by the storm.

The unseasonable sandstorm is reported to have killed at least 12 people across the region. The meteorological department at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport described the storm as being “unprecedented” in Lebanon’s modern history.

The storm also hit Syria, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Egypt. In Jordan, schools shut down or cut their days short.

In Syria’s Hama, at least three women died, according to state media which also reported that 3,500 cases are being treated in several hospitals in various regime-controlled areas.

The pro-government Syrian Al-Watan newspaper says it forced the government to halt its air strikes against rebel fighters in the rebel-held areas in the north and centre of the country.

Al Jazeera’s weather presenter, Rob McElwee, said on Wednesday that the situation had since gotten better in Syria but the other countries were still badly hit.

“Syria has improved, but Lebanon is still badly affected, so is Jordan, Israel, and less so northern Egypt and Cyprus. I think tomorrow will see an improvement throughout.”

photos at url
Khamseen dust storm sweeps across Palestine – Maan

Sept. 8, 2015 1:10 P.M.
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A massive dust storm engulfed the occupied Palestinian territory overnight Monday, with doctors warning that the dust may pose a health risk to some.

Dr. Kamal Abdelfattah, professor of geography at Birzeit university, told Ma’an that the dust storm originated in northern and eastern Saudi Arabia.

Stretching four kilometers into the air, the storm crossed into Iraq four or five days ago on a wave of high pressure across the Gulf and into Syria on Monday, he said.

It engulfed the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel overnight, although Abdelfattah said that the storm was nearing its end.

“It will cover the area for one or two days,” he said.

He said that the phenomenon is referred to as the Fall Khamseen, and comes following lower pressure across the Levant at the change of seasons.

Similar storms also take place at the end of the winter, referred to as the Spring Khamseen.

Abdelfattah said that although the storm was in line with regular weather patterns, it was unusual for it to last so long across such a vast area.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during a regional dust storm, with dust stretching four kilometers into the air. (MaanImages)

Youssef Abu Asaad, the general director of the Palestinian Meteorological Department, said that dust levels were 140 times higher than the seasonal average.

He added that the storm would be accompanied by high temperatures in the coming days, as high as five or six degrees Centigrade over the average for this time of year.

The media committee of the Doctors Union warned against a possible health risk from the storm, issuing instructions to those suffering from allergies and asthma.

The committee said that sand and dust storms arouse the respiratory system, especially for those suffering from allergies, asthma and lung infections, as the dust affects mucous membranes of the respiratory stream, causing breathlessness and coughing spells.

People who do not suffer from allergies and asthma may also see irritation, breathlessness, sneezing and nose and eyes itching if exposed to large amounts of dust, the committee said.

The instructions issued by the committee were:

– Try to cover the face to lessen the amount of dust entering the respiratory system through the mouth and nose.

– For patients taking treatment, after consulting your doctor, double therapeutic doses to lighten constriction of the bronchial.

– Avoid exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, as when smoke mixes with dust it increases the irritation of mucous membranes which increases breathing trouble.

– Make sure to check up with your doctor regularly for advice on controlling your allergy.

– Use a piece of wet warm cloth in the case of nasal congestion due to being exposed to dust; hold it close to your nose and take a deep breath; try to keep it on your face for several minutes as it lessens the severity of the congestion and helps get rid of dusts in the nose.

– If the eyes are exposed to dust, wash them with lukewarm water to lessen irritation.

– Close windows and, if possible, stay inside.

– Bath/shower to get rid of dust.

– Change clothes with coming in from outside.

– Close the windows of your car.

– Turn on air conditioners.
Meteorologists ‘did not see the sandstorm coming’ – Jordan Times

By Laila Azzeh – Sep 10,2015

Image acquired Tuesday via NASA EarthData shows the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA’s Aqua satellite which captured this image of the dust storm Monday over the Middle East (AFP photo)

AMMAN –– The “unusual” weather conditions witnessed in several countries in the region, including Jordan, during the past couple of days are attributed to a “rare” metrological phenomenon which forecasters were unable to foresee, according to experts.

The dense standstorm caused at least five deaths in the region and breathing problems in hundreds of cases, according to media reports.

“The Kingdom is witnessing an extraordinary dusty weather during this time of the year due to a thermal low that occurred in a very dry desert between east Syria and west Iraq accompanied by strong winds. This caused a huge standstorm that swept towards Syria,” said Rami Obeid, a meteorologist at the ArabianWeather.Com.

He explained that a thermal low, or heat low, is a surface low pressure that occurs in warm seasons when an air mass warms up, causing a surface low pressure.

“Due to the very high temperatures and the nature of the area, a low air mass has led to the formation of a huge sandstorm that began to move slowly towards the south and southwest by the wind,” said Obeid.

“Unlike depressions, forecasters cannot detect the phenomenon beforehand. It was very intense and rare that we did not see it coming,” he told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

The effects of the sandstorm will start dissipating as of Wednesday after hitting Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Cyprus and Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

Affecting several parts of Jordan, the sandstorm prompted hundreds of schools to close down on Wednesday after the Education Ministry delegated its directors across the Kingdom to decide whether to suspend classes, depending on the prevailing weather conditions.

No fatalities were reported in Jordan, but the Civil Defence Department (CDD) dealt with a total of 390 cases of breathing difficulties and respiratory problems.

“We expect the number of patients who headed to hospitals due to the weather to be more, but those are the ones we transported via our ambulances,” a source from the CDD media division told The Jordan Times.

“No major incidents were reported due to the weather, on the contrary, today was unexpectedly normal under such weather conditions,” a source from the CDD media division told The Jordan Times, noting that most of the cases the department staff handled suffered from other chronic diseases, such as allergy and asthma.

Zahiah Naasan, corporate communications director at the Queen Alia International Airport, said operations also went as normal on Wednesday with no delays or diversions.

The Jordan Metrological Department said temperatures are forecast to increase in the coming two days due to the effect of a seasonal depression originating in the Indian subcontinent.

Temperatures in Amman will range between 38ºC and 25ºC on Thursday and Friday.

According to the Associated Press, Egyptian authorities closed down four ports in the Suez governorate on Wednesday because of poor visibility blamed on the sandstorm.
– See more at: